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Full text of "CMH Pub 7-8-1 The Ardennes: Battle Of The Bulge"

Battle of the Bulge 




UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 

The European Theater of Operations 

THE ARDENNES: 
BATTLE OF THE BULGE 

by 

Hugh M. Cole 




CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY 
UNITED STATES ARMY 
WASHINGTON, D. a, 1993 



Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 65-60001 



First Printed 1965— CMH Pub 7-8-1 



For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office 
Washington, D.C. 20402 



UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 



Stetson Conn, General Editor 



Advisory Committee 

(As of 1 July 1964) 



Fred C. Cole 
Washington and Lee University 

James A. Field, Jr. 
Swarthmore College 

Earl Pomeroy 
University of Oregon 

Theodore Ropp 
Duke University 



Lt. Gen. August Schomburg 
Industrial College of the Armed Forces 

Maj. Gen. Hugh M. Exton 
U.S. Continental Army Command 

Brig. Gen. Ward S. Ryan 
U.S. Army War College 

Brig. Gen. Elias C. Townsend 
U.S. Army Command and General 
Staff College 



Lt. Col. Thomas E. Griess 
United States Military Academy 



Office of the Chief of Military History 
Brig. Gen. Hal C. Pattison, Chief of Military History 

Chief Historian Stetson Conn 

Chief, Histories Division Col. Albert W. Jones 

Chief, Editorial and Graphics Division Col. Walter B. McKenzie 

Editor in Chief Joseph R. Friedman 



iii 



. . . to Those Who Served 



Foreword 



During most of the eleven months between D-day and V-E day in 
Europe, the U.S. Army was carrying on highly successful offensive opera- 
tions. As a consequence, the American soldier was buoyed with success, 
imbued with the idea that his enemy could not strike him a really heavy 
counterblow, and sustained by the conviction that the war was nearly won. 
Then, unbelievably, and under the goad of Hitler's fanaticism, the German 
Army launched its powerful counteroffensive in the Ardennes in December 
1944 with the design of knifing through the Allied armies and forcing a 
negotiated peace. The mettle of the American soldier was tested in the 
fires of adversity and the quality of his response earned for him the right 
to stand shoulder to shoulder with his forebears of Valley Forge, Fredericks- 
burg, and the Marne. 

This is the story of how the Germans planned and executed their 
offensive. It is the story of how the high command, American and British, 
reacted to defeat the German plan once the reality of a German offensive 
was accepted. But most of all it is the story of the American fighting man 
and the manner in which he fought a myriad of small defensive battles 
until the torrent of the German attack was slowed and diverted, its force 
dissipated and finally spent. It is the story of squads, platoons, companies, 
and even conglomerate scratch groups that fought with courage, with 
fortitude, with sheer obstinacy, often without information or communica- 
tions or the knowledge of the whereabouts of friends. In less than a fortnight 
the enemy was stopped and the Americans were preparing to resume the 
offensive. While Bastogne has become the symbol of this obstinate, gallant, 
and successful defense, this work appropriately emphasizes the crucial 
significance of early American success in containing the attack by holding 
firmly on its northern and southern shoulders and by upsetting the enemy 
timetable at St. Vith and a dozen lesser known but important and decisive 
battlefields. 

The hard fighting that preceded the Battle of the Bulge has been re- 
counted in two volumes. The Siegfried Line Campaign, and Dr. Cole's 
own earlier work. The Lorraine Campaign. Events after it ^vill be related 
in The Last Offensive, now in preparation. T^vo other volumes in this 
subseries. The Supreme Command and Logistical Support of the Armies, 
Volume II, are useful supplements to the Ardennes volume. 



Vll 



In re-creating the Ardennes battle, the author has penetrated "the fog 
of war" as well as any historian can hope to do. No other volume of this 
series treats as thoroughly or as well the teamwork of the combined arms- 
infantry and armor, artillery and air, combat engineer and tank destroyer— 
or portrays as vividly the starkness of small unit combat. Every thoughtful 
student of military history, but most especially the student of small unit 
tactics, should find the reading of Dr. Cole's work a rewarding experience. 

Washington, D.C. HAL C. PATTISON 

15 June 1964 Brigadier General, USA 

Chief of Military History 



viii 



The Author 



Hugh M. Cole received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 
1937 in the field of European military history. He taught military history at 
the University of Chicago until 1942, when he joined the Army as an intelli- 
gence officer. After graduating from the Command and General Staff School 
he was assigned to the staff of the Third Army during its operations in 
Europe. At the close of hostilities he became Deputy Theater Historian, 
European Theater of Operations. From 1946 to 1952 Dr. Cole 
directed the work of the European Theater Section, Office of the Chief of 
Military History, wrote The Lorraine Campaign, a volume that appeared 
in this series in 1950, and undertook much of the work that has culminated 
in this volume on the Ardennes Campaign. He joined the Operations 
Research Office of The Johns Hopkins University in 1952 and has continued 
his active interest in military history and his service to the Army both as a 
scholar and as colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. 



ix 



Preface 



This volume deals with the crucial period of the campaign conducted 
in the Belgian Ardennes and Luxembourg, generally known as the Battle 
of the Bulge. Although the German planning described herein antedates 
the opening gun by several weeks, the story of the combat operations begins 
on 16 December 1944. By 3 January 1945 the German counteroffensive 
was at an end, and on that date the Allies commenced an attack that would 
take them across the Rhine and into Germany. The last phase of operations 
in the Ardennes, therefore, is properly part and parcel of the final Allied 
offensive in Europe, and so the course of battle beginning on 3 January 
1945 is described in another and final volume of this subseries. 

The problem of the level of treatment is always difficult in the organiza- 
tion and writing of the general staff type of history, which is the design of 
this volume. In describing a war of movement, the solution usually has 
been to concentrate on tactical units smaller than those normally treated 
when the war of position obtains. Thus the French General Staff history 
of the summer offensive in 1918 abruptly descends from the army corps 
to the regiment as the appropriate tactical unit to be traced through this 
period of mobile operations. The story of the Ardennes Campaign is even 
more difficult to organize because of the disappearance, in the first hours, 
of a homogeneous front. Churchill's dictum that the historian's task is "to 
allot proportion to human events" applies in this instance, although there 
are limits to the amount of expansion or contraction permissible. Thus the 
reader is introduced on 16 December 1944 to battles fought by companies 
and platoons because they are meaningful and because the relative impor- 
tance of these actions is as great as operations conducted by regiments or 
even divisions later in the story. As the American front congeals and a 
larger measure of tactical control is regained, the narrative follows bat- 
talions, then regiments, and then divisions. The building blocks, however, 
are the battalion and the regiment. In U.S. Army practice during the war 
in western Europe, the battalion was in organization and doctrine the basic 
unit, with both tactical and administrative functions. The regiment, in 
turn, when organized as a regimental combat team was the basic maneuver 
element combining the arms and having staying power. Also, the regiment 
was the lowest infantry unit to have a name and a history with which 
the soldier could, and did, identify himself. 



xi 



The Ardennes battle normally Tvas "fought," in the sense o£ exercising 
decisive command and directing operations, by the corps commander. The 
span of tactical control in these widely dispersed actions simply was 
beyond the physical grasp of higher commanders. These higher commanders 
could "influence" the battle only by outlining (in very general terms) the 
scheme of maneuver, allocating reserves, and exercising whatever moral 
suasion they personally could bring to bear. In other words, "tactics came 
before strategy," as Ludendorff wrote of the March offensive in 1918. 

For the early days of the Ardennes Campaign the narrative opens each 
successive stage of the account by a look at the enemy side of the hill. This, 
in fact, is mandatory if the story is to have cohesion and meaning because 
the Germans possessed the initiative and because the American forces were 
simply reacting to the enemy maneuvers. The account in later chapters 
shifts to the American camp in accordance with the measure to which the 
American forces had regained operational freedom. 

This volume represents the most exhaustive collection of personal 
memoirs by leading participants ever attempted for a general staff history 
of a major campaign. The memoirs take two forms: interviews with 
American participants shortly after the action described, and written ac- 
counts prepared immediately after the end of World War II by the German 
officers who took part in the Ardennes Campaign. The use of the combat 
interview in the European Theater of Operations was organized by Col. 
William A. Ganoe, theater historian, but the specific initiation of an in- 
tensive effort to cover the Ardennes story while the battle itself was in 
progress must be credited to Col. S. L. A. Marshall. The enlistment of the 
German participants in the Ardennes, first as involuntary then as voluntary 
historians, was begun by Colonel Marshall and Capt. Kenneth Hechler, 
then developed into a fully organized research program by Col. Harold 
Potter, who was assisted by a very able group of young officers, notably 
Captains Howard Hudson, Frank Mahin, and James Scoggins. 

The story of the logistics involved in the American operations is treated 
at length and in perceptive fashion by Roland G. Ruppenthal, Logistical 
Support of the Armies, in two volumes of this subseries. In the main, 
therefore, the present volume confines itself to the logistical problems of 
the German armies. Readers interested in following the course of Allied 
relationships at high levels of command, and particularly the operations of 
Allied intelligence on the eve of the German offensive, are referred to 
Forrest C. Pogue's The Supreme Command, another volume in this series. 
Unfortunately the interest of the United States Air Forces in tactical support 
of ground operations was on the wane in the period after World War II 
and, as a result, a detailed air force history of air-ground co-operation dur- 
ing the battle of the Ardennes remains to be \vritten. To introduce in full 
the effects of the tactical role played by Allied air power during the ground 
operations here described would require a volume twice the size of this 



xii 



one. I have tried, however, to keep the role of the air constantly before the 
reader, even though the specific actor often is anonymous. 

As in my previous volume in the European subseries an attempt is 
made to include all awards of the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished 
Service Cross. The reader will recognize that deeds of valor do not neces- 
sarily coincide with the focal point of a particular action, as this is selectively 
seen and described by the historian; so it has been necessary to relegate 
to the footnotes and cover in very cursory fashion many of these individual 
acts of gallantry. 

The reader will find no reference to "lessons learned." This is not 
because the history of the Ardennes Campaign is so antique as to lack a 
useful application to modern military thought or planning for the future. 
On the contrary, the operations in the Ardennes show in real life tactical 
forms and formations which (in such things as dispersal, gaps between units, 
counterattack doctrine, widths of front, and fluidity of movement) are com- 
parable to those taught by current Army doctrine and envisaged for the 
future. Nonetheless, the most valuable lessons which might be derived from 
the study of this campaign would lead inevitably to a consideration of special 
weapons effects and their impact on military operations, which in turn would 
result in a restrictive security classification for the volume. I hope, however, 
that the Army service schools will find it fruitful to make the extrapolation 
that cannot be made here. 

The maps consulted by the author were those in use at the end of 1944. 
They include the U.S. Army reproductions of the maps prepared by the 
British Geographical Section, General Staff, in the 1:25,000 series (G.S., 
G.S. 4041), the 1:50,000 series (G.S., G.S. 4040), and the 1:100,000 series 
(G.S., G.S. 4336 and 4416) . The most useful German map proved to be 
the 1:200,000 Strassenkarte von Belgien, a copy of the French Michelin 
road map, issued to German troops as early as 1940 and, in an English 
version, used by American armored units. Some of the terrain in question 
is familiar to me, but this personal knowledge has been augmented by an 
extensive use of photographs. Shortly after World War II pilots of the 
45th Reconnaissance Squadron, USAF, under the supervision of Maj. John 
C. Hatlem, flew photographic missions designated by the author, over 
terrain in Luxembourg and Belgium. In addition some special ground 
photographs were made. The total collection numbers two hundred and 
sixteen photographs and has proved invaluable in writing this story. 

References to clock time are on the twenty-four hour system. Fortu- 
nately for the reader (and the writer) , the Allies converted to British 
summer time on 17 September 1944 and the Germans went back to middle 
European time on 2 October 1944; as a result both forces used the same 
clock time in the Ardennes. Sunrise on 16 December 1944 came at 0829 
and sunset occurred at 1635 (using Bastogne, Belgium, as a reference 
point) . The brevity of daylight is an important tactical feature of this 



xiii 



history, and the reader should note that dawn and dusk (morning and 
evening twilight) each added only thirty-eight minutes to the hours of 
light. 

A host of participants in the Ardennes battle have answered questions 
posed by the author, provided personal papers, and read a part or the whole 
of the draft manuscript. Their assistance has been invaluable. 

Although this volume took an unconscionably long while to write, my 
task was made much easier by the initial efforts of Captains Blair Clark, 
Howard Hudson, Robert Merriam, and George Tuttle, who spent several 
months at the close of the war in gathering the sources and preparing first 
drafts for a history of the Ardennes Campaign. In the Office of the Chief 
of Military History, Mrs. Magna Bauer, Charles V. P. von Luttichau, and 
Royce L. Thompson worked over a period of years in gathering data and 
writing research papers for use in the volume. The reader of the footnotes 
will obtain some slight measure of my obligation to these three. 

In preparation for publication, Mr. Joseph R. Friedman, Editor in 
Chief, OCMH, has given this volume devoted attention, and Mrs. Loretto 
C. Stevens of the Editorial Branch has shepherded it through the final steps 
of editing. Mr. Billy C. Mossman prepared the maps. Miss Ruth A. Phillips 
selected the photographs, and Miss Margaret L. Emerson compiled the 
index. 

Finally, I am indebted to my secretary, Mrs. Muriel Southwick, without 
whose exhortations and reminders this book might never have been com- 
pleted. 

For any errors of fact or flaws of interpretation that may occur in this 
work, the author alone is responsible. 

Washington, D.C. HUGH M. COLE 

15 June 1964 



xiv 



Contents 



Chapter Page 

I. THE ORIGINS .... 1 

Hitler's Perspective, September 1944 3 

How the Plan Was Born 9 

II. PLANNING THE COUNTEROFFENSIVE 19 

Details of the Plan 19 

The Big Solution 27 

A Double Envelopment? 29 

III. TROOPS AND TERRAIN 33 

The Order of Battle 33 

The Allies Return to the Attack 36 

The Terrain 39 

IV. PREPARATIONS 48 

Deception and Camouflage 48 

The Western Front in Early December 51 

The Intelligence Failure 56 

The German Concentration 63 

V. THE SIXTH PANZER ARMY ATTACK 75 

The 99th Division Sector 77 

The Initial Attack, 16 December 80 

The First Attacks in the Monschau-Hofen Sector 

Are Repulsed, 16 December 86 

The German Effort Continues, 17-18 December 90 

Losheimergraben Is Lost > 92 

The German Attack Toward Rocherath and Krinkelt, 

16-17 December 95 

The 395th Infantry Conforms to the Withdrawal .... 101 

The 2d Division Gives Up the Wahlerscheid Attack . . . • 103 

The 394th Infantry Abandons the Milrringen Position . . 105 

XV 



Chapter Page 

VI. THE GERMAN NORTHERN SHOULDER IS JAMMED 107 

The 2d Division Withdraws 107 

The 1st Infantry Division Sends Reinforcements to 

Butgenbach 112 

The Defense of the Twin Villages, 18 December . . . . . 113 

The Last Attack at Hofen Fails, 18 December 119 

The 2d Division Withdraws to the Elsenborn Line, 

19 December 120 

The Enemy Tries the Western Flank, 19—23 December . . 128 

VII. BREAKTHROUGH AT THE SCHNEE EIFEL 136 

Introductory Note 136 

Dispositions of the 106th Infantry Division 137 

Enemy Preparations for Another Cannae 142 

The Attack in the Losheim Gap 145 

The Attack Hits the 106th Division 151 

The 424th Infantry and CCB, 9th Armored 158 

Cannae in the Schnee Eifel 161 

The Question of Air Resupply 171 

VIII. THE FIFTH PANZER ARMY ATTACKS THE 28TH 

INFANTRY DIVISION 173 

The 110th Infantry Sector, 16-18 December 176 

The 112th Infantry Sector, 16-20 December 193 

The Fall of Wiltz 205 

IX. THE ATTACK BY THE GERMAN LEFT WING: 16-20 

DECEMBER 212 

The 109th Infantry Defense on the Sauer and Our 

Rivers, 16-20 December 214 

Elements of the 9th Armored Division Battle at the 

Sauer, 16-20 December 227 

X. THE GERMAN SOUTHERN SHOULDER IS JAMMED . . 238 

The German Thrust Begins 240 

Southern Flank— A Summing Up 258 

XL THE 1ST SS PANZER DIVISION'S DASH WESTWARD, AND 

OPERATION GREIF 259 

Kampfgruppe Peiper on the Move 260 

Operation Greif 269 

XII. THE FIRST ATTACKS AT ST. VITH 272 

The 7th Armored Division Move to St. Vith 273 

The Enemy Strikes at the St. Vith Perimeter 280 



xvi 



Chapter Page 

XIII. VIII CORPS ATTEMPTS TO DELAY THE ENEMY .... 294 

CCR, 9th Armored Division, and the Road to Bastogne . . 294 

The Advance of the XLVII Panzer Corps 298 

Team Cherry on the Longvilly Road 300 

The 101st Airborne Division Moves Into Bastogne .... 305 

XIV. THE VIII CORPS BARRIER LINES 310 

Middleton's First Moves 3H 

The Gap North of Bastogne 316 

Defense Southwest of Bastogne 322 

Renewed Drive Around Bastogne 323 

XV. THE GERMAN SALIENT EXPANDS TO THE WEST ... 330 

The 30th Division Meets Peipcr 334 

The West Flank of the XVIII Airborne Corps, 20 December 352 
Action in Front of the XVIII Airborne Corps Right Wing, 

20 December 354 

The Net Closes on Peiper 359 

XVI. ONE THREAT SUBSIDES; ANOTHER EMERGES .... 368 

The Attempt To Relieve Peipefs Karnpfgruppe 368 

The 3d Armored Division Is Checked, 21—23 December . . 377 

The Fight at the Baraque de Fraiture Crossroads, 23 December 388 

XVII. ST. VITH IS LOST 393 

The Defenders of St. Vith Pass to the XVIII Airborne Corps 393 

The Enemy Closes on the St. Vith Salient 401 

The Final Withdrawal From the St. Vith Sector 407 

XVIII. THE VII CORPS MOVES TO BLUNT THE SALIENT . . 423 

Division of the Battlefield 423 

The VII Corps Assembles 427 

German Armor Advances on the VII Corps 435 

The Main Battle Is Joined, 24 and 25 December .... 438 

XIX. THE BATTLE OF BASTOGNE 445 

The Initial Deployment East of Bastogne 445 

Bastogne Is Encircled 459 

The Enemy Begins a Concentric Attack 464 

The Battle on Christmas Day 478 

XX. THE XII CORPS ATTACKS THE SOUTHERN SHOULDER 482 

The End of the Defensive Battle, 22 December 482 

The XII Corps Moves to Luxembourg . 485 

The XII Corps' Counterattack 489 



xvii 



Chapter Page 

XXI. THE III CORPS' COUNTERATTACK TOWARD 

BASTOGNE 509 

Preparations for the Attack 509 

The 80th Division Advance 515 

The 26th Infantry Division Attack 520 

The 4th Armored Division Attack 523 

The 80th Division Battle in the Woods, 25-26 December . . 532 
The 26th Division Fight for a Bridgehead on the Sure, 

24-27 December 540 

The 4th Armored Division Reaches Bastogne 547 

XXII. THE BATTLE BEFORE THE MEUSE 556 

The Meuse River Line 556 

The Meuse Seems Within Reach 562 

The Celles Pocket 565 

The Fight at Humain 570 

The Fight at Verdenne 574 

XXIII. THE BATTLE BETWEEN THE SALM AND THE 

OURTHE: 24 DECEMBER-2 JANUARY 578 

The Battle at the Manhay Crossroads 583 

The Fight in the Aisne Valley 593 

The 2d SS Panzer Is Halted 595 

The 82d Airborne Withdraws From the Salm River Line . . 598 

"The Sad Sack Affair" 601 

The Elsenborn Shoulder 603 

XXIV. THE THIRD ARMY OFFENSIVE 606 

Widening the Bastogne Corridor 606 

The Opposing Grand Tactics 610 

The Sibret-Villeroux Actions 615 

The Two Attacks Collide 617 

The III Corps Joins the Attack 627 

The Lone Battle of the 26th Division 637 

The VIII Corps' Attack Continues 643 

XXV. EPILOGUE 649 

The Weather 649 

The Opposing Troop Strengths 650 

The Opposing Weapons 651 

The Artillery Arm in the Ardennes 656 

The Air Weapon 660 

Logistics 663 

The Turning Point in the Ardennes 668 

The Place of the Ardennes Offensive in World War II . . 673 

Appendix 

A. TABLE OF EQUIVALENT RANKS 677 



B. RECIPIENTS OF THE DISTINGUISHED SERVICE CROSS 678 



xviii 



Page 

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 680 

GLOSSARY 682 

BASIC MILITARY MAP SYMBOLS 685 

INDEX 689 

Maps 

No. Page 

1. The Western Front, 15 December 1944 52 

2. The XVIII Airborne Corps Meets Kampfgruppe Peiper, 

20-25 December 1944 347 

3. The XVIII Airborne Corps West Flank, 20 December 1944 ... 355 

4. Bastogne, 25-26 December 1944 473 

Maps I-XAre in Accompanying Map Envelope 



I. The Ardennes Counteroffensive: The German Plan, December 1944 
II. The Sixth Panzer Army Attack, 16-19 December 1944 

III. The LXVI Corps Attacks the 106th Infantry Division, 

16-19 December 1944 

IV. The Fi£th Panzer Army Attacks the 28th Infantry Division, 

16-19 December 1944 
V. The Seventh Army Attack, 16-19 December 1944 
VI. Bastogne, 19-23 December 1944 
VII. The XVIII Airborne Corps Sector, 21-23 December 1944 
VIII. Between the Salm and the Meuse, 24-27 December 1944 
IX. The Southern Shoulder, 22-26 December 1944 
X. Widening the Bastogne Corridor, 24 December 1944—2 January 
1945 



Illustrations 

Page 



Adolf Hitler 2 

Generaloberst Alfred Jodl 16 

Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt 23 

Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model 24 

Noville and Stolzemberg 41 



XIX 



Page 

Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley, Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur W. Tedder, 
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. 

Montgomery 54 

Maj. Gen. Troy H. Middleton 55 

Panierkampfwagens V (Panther) on the Way to the Front 60 

Generaloberst der Waffen-SS Josef Dietrich 76 

Snow Scene Near Krinkelt 79 

Losheimergraben 84 

Constructing a Winterized Squad Hut 88 

Camouflaged Pillbox Serving as Command Post 100 

Maj. Gen. Leonard T. Gerow 103 

2d Division Infantrymen on the March 108 

26th Infantry Area Near Butgenbach 114 

Captured German Tank Crewman 118 

99th Infantry Division Vehicles Moving Through Wirtzfeld 121 

Gun Position on Elsenborn Ridge 124 

Wrecked German Tank Showing "Bazooka Pants" 127 

American Prisoners 169 

General der Panzertruppen Hasso von Manteuffel 174 

General der Panzertruppen Heinrich F. Luettwitz 174 

German Troops Passing Abandoned American Equipment 183 

Clerf 189 

Ouren, Showing Bridges 200 

Wiltz 210 

Ettelbruck 224 

Cave Refuge for Civilians 227 

Wallendorf 228 

Belgian Woman Salvaging Burned Grain 233 

Breitweiler 246 

Lt. Gen. Courtney H. Hodges 259 

Kampfgruppe Peiper 262 

Massacred American Soldiers Near Malmedy 263 

Traffic Jam in St. Vith Area 276 

Railroad Yards at Gouvy 287 

Antitank Gunners Guarding a Crossing, Vielsalm 288 

Brig. Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe 306 

Paratroopers of lOlst Airborne Near Bastogne 308 

La Roche and the Ourthe River 314 

Combat Engineer Setting a Charge 326 

Ambleve River Bridge at Stavelot 338 

Maj. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway and Maj. Gen. James M. Gavin . . . 344 

Troops of 325th Glider Infantry Moving Through Fog 346 

Stoumont 350 

Mined Bridge at Malmedy . 360 



XX 



Page 

German Tank Disguised as an American Tank 362 

105-mm. Howitzers M7 in Action Near La Gleize 375 

Baraque de Fraiture 388 

St. Vith 394 

Cherain 399 

Tanks o£ the 7th Armored Division Near St. Vith 408 

Car Bearing General Bradley Fords a Belgian River 425 

Maj. Gen. J. Lawton Collins', Field Marshal Montgomery, and 

General Ridgway 426 

Hotton 430 

MP's Checking Vehicles Near Marche 432 

Captured German 88-mm. Gun 439 

Bastogne 446 

Casualties in an Improvised Emergency Ward 467 

Supply by Air 469 

A Bastogne Street After Luftwaffe Bombardment 476 

Maj. Gen. Manton S. Eddy 485 

Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr 487 

5th Infantry Division Troops Moving Toward the Front 491 

A White Phosphorus Burst 496 

Scheidgen 498 

White-Clad 11th Infantry Troops Attack Toward Haller 500 

Miillerthal 502 

Berdorf 505 

Maj. Gen. John Millikin 510 

Heiderscheidergrund Bridge 519 

Watching a Dogfight Between American and Luftwaffe Planes .... 527 

4th Armored Division Rolling Toward Chaumont 528 

Esch-sur-Sure 547 

American Troops in Tintange 549 

German Prisoners Carrying Wounded 550 

British Tank Patrolling the Meuse at Namur 558 

Civilian Refugees at Dinant Bridge 562 

Marche 563 

2d Armored Division Infantrymen Moving to New Positions 573 

Prime Mover Towing 8-Inch Howitzer 582 

Manhay Crossroads 584 

Elements of 3d Armored Division Advancing Near Manhay 586 

Troops of the 84th Infantry Division Digging In ... 588 

Destruction of Grandmenil 597 

Supplies Moving Through Bastogne 608 

Massed Half-Tracks 618 

35th Infantry Division Machine Gunners 624 

xxi 



Page 

Bed Sheets Used as Camouflage 631 

6th Armored Division Tanks in Snowstorm 634 

Medics Removing Casualties, Lutrebois 636 

Kaundorf 639 

All illustrations are from Department of Defense files, with the exception of 
the photograph on page 76 (General Dietrich) reproduced through the courtesy 
of the Central Intelligence Agency, and the one on page 174 (General von 
Luettwitz) , taken from captured German records in the National Archives. 



xxii 



The U.S. Army Center of Military History 



The Center of Military History prepares and publishes histories as re- 
quired by the U.S. Army. It coordinates Army historical matters, including 
historical properties, and supervises the Army museum system. It also 
maintains liaison with public and private agencies and individuals to stimu- 
late interest and study in the field of military history. The Center is located 
at 1099 14th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005-3402. 



XXIIl 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



CHAPTER I 

The Origins 



On Saturday, 16 September 1944, the 
daily Fuehrer Conference convened in 
the Wolf's Lair, Hitler's East Prussian 
headquarters. No special word had 
come in from the battle fronts and the 
briefing soon ended, the conference dis- 
banding to make way for a session be- 
tween Hitler and members of what had 
become his household military staff. 
Wilhelm Keitel and Alfred Jodl were 
in this second conference. So was Heinz 
Guderian, who as acting chief of staff 
for OKH held direct military responsi- 
bility for the conduct of operations on 
the Russian front. 

Herman Goering was absent. From 
this fact stems the limited knowledge 
available of the initial appearance of 
the idea which would be translated into 
historical fact as the Ardennes counter- 
offensive or Battle of the Bulge. Goer- 
ing and the Luftwaffe were represented 
by Werner Kreipe, chief of staff for 
OKL. Perhaps Kreipe had been in- 
structed by Goering to report fully on 
all that Hitler might say; perhaps Kreipe 
was a habitual diary-keeper. In any 
case he had consistently violated the 
Fuehrer ordinance that no notes of the 
daily conferences should be retained ex- 
cept the official transcript made by 
Hitler's own stenographic staff. 

Trenchant, almost cryptic, Kreipe's 
notes outline the scene, Jodl, represent- 
ing OKW and thus the headquarters 



responsible for managing the war on the 
Western Front, began the briefing.^ In 
a quiet voice and with the usual adroit 
use of phrases designed to lessen the 
impact of information which the Fuehrer 
might find distasteful, Jodl reviewed the 
relative strength of the opposing forces. 
The Western Allies possessed 96 divi- 
sions at or near the front; these were 
faced by 55 German divisions. An 
estimated 10 Allied divisions were en 
route from the United Kingdom to the 
battle zone. Allied airborne units still 
remained in England (some of these 
would make a dramatic appearance the 
very next day at Arnhem and Nijme- 
gen) . Jodl added a few words about 
shortages on the German side, shortages 
in tanks, heavy weapons, and ammuni- 
tion. This was a persistent and unpopu- 
lar topic; Jodl must have slid quickly 
to the next item— a report on the German 
forces withdrawing from southern and 
southwestern France. 

Suddenly Hitler cut Jodl short. There 
ensued a few minutes of strained silence. 
Then Hitler spoke, his words recalled 
as faithfully as may be by the listening 



^ MS # P-069, The Kreipe Diary, 22 July-2 
November 1944 (General der Flieger Werner 
Kreipe). OKH, OKL, and OKW are the ab- 
breviated versions, respectively, of Oberkommando 
des Heeres, the High Command of the German 
Army, Oberkommando der Luftwaffe, The Luft- 
waffe High Command, and Oberkommando der 
Wehrmacht, the Armed Forces High Command. 



2 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 




Adolf Hitler 



OKL chief of staff. "I have just made 
a momentous decision. I shall go over 
to the counter-attack, that is to say"— 
and he pointed to the map unrolled on 
the desk before him— "here, out of the 
Ardennes, with the objective— Antwerp." 
While his audience sat in stunned si- 
lence, the Fuehrer began to outline his 
plan. 

Historical hindsight may give the im- 
pression that only a leader finally bereft 
of sanity could, in mid-September of 
1944, believe Germany physically capa- 
ble of delivering one more powerful 
and telling blow. Politically the Third 
Reich stood deserted and friendless. 
Fascist Italy and the once powerful Axis 
were finished. Japan had politely sug- 
gested that Germany should start peace 
negotiations with the Soviets. In south- 
eastern Europe, as the month of August 



closed, the Rumanians and Bulgarians 
had hastened to switch sides and join 
the victorious Russians. Finland had 
broken with Germany on 2 September. 
Hungary and the ephemeral Croat 
"state" continued in dubious battle be- 
side Germany, held in place by German 
divisions in the line and German garri- 
sons in their respective capitals. But the 
twenty nominal Hungarian divisions and 
an equivalent number of Croatian 
brigades were in effect canceled by the 
two Rumanian armies which had joined 
the Russians. 

The defection of Rumanian, Bulgar- 
ian, and Finnish forces was far less im- 
portant than the terrific losses suffered 
by the German armies themselves in 
the summer of 1944. On the Eastern 
and Western Fronts the combined 
German losses during June, July, and 
August had totaled at least 1,200,000 
dead, wounded, and missing. The rapid 
Allied advances in the west had cooped 
up an additional 230,000 troops in posi- 
tions from which they would emerge 
only to surrender. Losses in materiel 
were in keeping with those in fighting 
manpower. 

Room for maneuver had been whit- 
tled away at a fantastically rapid rate. 
On the Eastern Front the Soviet summer 
offensive had carried to the borders of 
East Prussia, across the Vistula at a num- 
ber of points, and up to the northern 
Carpathians. Only a small slice of 
Rumania was left to German troops. 
By mid-September the German occupa- 
tion forces in southern Greece and the 
Greek islands (except Crete) already 
were withdrawing as the German grasp 
on the Balkans weakened. 

On the Western Front the Americans 
had, in the second week of September, 



THE ORIGINS 



3 



put troops on the soil of the Third 
Reich, in the Aachen sector, while the 
British had entered Holland. The 
German armies in the west faced a 
containing Allied front reaching from 
the Swiss border to the North Sea. On 
14 September the newly appointed 
German commander in the west, Gen- 
eralfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt, 
acknowledged that the "Battle for the 
West Wall" had begun. 

On the Italian front Generalfeld- 
marschall Albert Kesselring's two armies 
retained position astride the Apennines 
and, from the Gothic Line, defended 
northern Italy. Here, of all the active 
fronts, the German forces faced the 
enemy on something like equal terms- 
except in the air. Nonetheless the Allies 
were dangerously close to the southern 
entrances to the Po Valley. 

In the far north the defection of 
Finland had introduced a bizarre opera- 
tional situation. In northern Finland 
and on the Murmansk front nine Ger- 
man divisions held what earlier had 
been the left wing of the 700-mile Finno- 
German front. Now the Finns no 
longer were allies, but neither were 
they ready to turn their arms against 
Generaloberst Dr. Lothar Rendulic and 
his nine German divisions. The Soviets 
likewise showed no great interest in 
conducting a full-scale campaign in the 
subarctic. With Finland out of the war, 
however, the German troops had no 
worthwhile mission remaining except to 
stand guard over the Petsamo nickel 
mines. Only a month after Mannerheim 
took Finland out of the war. Hitler 
would order the evacuation of that 
country and of northern Norway. 

Political and military reverses so 
severe as those sustained by the Third 



Reich in the summer of 1944 necessarily 
implied severe economic losses to a state 
and a war machine fed and grown strong 
on the proceeds of conquest. Rumanian 
oil, Finnish and Norwegian nickel, cop- 
per, and molybdenum, Swedish high- 
grade iron ore, Russian manganese, 
French bauxite, Yugoslavian copper, 
and Spanish mercury were either lost 
to the enemy or denied by the neutrals 
who saw the tide of war turning against 
a once powerful customer. 

Hitler's Perspective 
September 1944 

In retrospect, the German position 
after the summer reverses of 1944 seemed 
indeed hopeless and the only rational 
release a quick peace on the best possi- 
ble terms. But the contemporary scene 
as viewed from Hitler's headquarters in 
September 1944, while hardly roseate, 
even to the Fuehrer, was not an un- 
relieved picture of despair and gloom. 
In the west what had been an Allied 
advance of astounding speed had de- 
celerated as rapidly, the long Allied 
supply lines, reaching clear back to the 
English Channel and the Cote d'Azur, 
acting as a tether which could be 
stretched only so far. The famous West 
Wall fortifications (almost dismantled 
in the years since 1940) had not yet been 
heavily engaged by the attacker, while 
to the rear lay the great moat which 
historically had separated the German 
people from their enemies— the Rhine. 
On the Eastern Front the seasonal surge 
of battle was beginning to ebb, the 
Soviet summer offensive seemed to have 
run its course, and despite continuing 
battle on the flanks the center had 
relapsed into an uneasy calm. 



4 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



Even the overwhelming superiority 
which the Western Allies possessed in 
the air had failed thus far to bring the 
Third Reich groveling to its knees as 
so many proponents of the air arm had 
predicted. In September the British and 
Americans could mount a daily bomber 
attack of over 5,000 planes, but the 
German will to resist and the means of 
resistance, so far as then could be meas- 
ured, remained quite sufficient for a 
continuation of the war. 

Great, gaping wounds, where the 
Allied bombers had struck, disfigured 
most of the larger German cities west 
of the Elbe, but German discipline and 
a reasonably efficient warning and shelter 
system had reduced the daily loss of life 
to what the German people themselves 
would reckon as "acceptable." If any- 
thing, the lesson of London was being 
repeated, the noncombatant will to re- 
sist hardening under the continuous 
blows from the air and forged still 
harder by the Allied announcements of 
an unconditional surrender policy. 

The material means available to the 
armed forces of the Third Reich ap- 
peared relatively unaffected by the 
ceaseless hammering from the air. It is 
true that the German war economy was 
not geared to meet a long-drawn war 
of attrition. But Reich Minister Albert 
Speer and his cohorts had been given 
over two years to rationalize, reorganize, 
disperse, and expand the German econ- 
omy before the intense Allied air 
efforts of 1944. So successful was Speer 's 
program and so industrious were the 
labors of the home front that the race 
between Allied destruction and German 
construction (or reconstruction) was 
being run neck and neck in the third 
quarter of 1944, the period, that is, dur- 



ing which Hitler instituted the far-reach- 
ing military plans eventuating in the 
Ardennes counteroffensive. 

The ball-bearing and aircraft in- 
dustries, major Allied air targets during 
the first half of 1944, had taken heavy 
punishment but had come back with 
amazing speed. By September bearing 
production was very nearly what it had 
been just before the dubious honor of 
nomination as top-priority target for the 
Allied bombing effort. The production 
of single-engine fighters had risen from 
1,016 in February to a high point of 
3,031 such aircraft in September. The 
Allied strategic attack leveled at the 
synthetic oil industry, however, showed 
more immediate results, as reflected in 
the charts which Speer put before Hitler. 
For aviation gasoline, motor gasoline, 
and diesel oil, the production curve 
dipped sharply downward and lingered 
far below monthly consumption figures 
despite the radical drop in fuel con- 
sumption in the summer of 1944. Am- 
munition production likewise had 
declined markedly under the air 
campaign against the synthetic oil in- 
dustry, in this case the synthetic nitrogen 
procedures. In September the German 
armed forces were firing some 70,000 
tons of explosives, while production 
amounted to only half that figure. 
Shells and casings were still unaffected 
except for special items which required 
the ferroalloys hitherto procured from 
the Soviet Union, France, and the 
Balkans. 

Although in the later summer of 1944 
the Allied air forces turned their bombs 
against German armored vehicle pro- 
duction (an appetizing target because 
of the limited number of final assembly 
plants), an average of 1,500 tanks and 



THE ORIGINS 



5 



assault guns were being shipped to the 
battle front every thirty days. During 
the first ten months of 1944 the Army 
Ordnance Directorate accepted 45,917 
trucks, but truck losses during the same 
period numbered 1 17,719. The German 
automotive industry had pushed the pro- 
duction of trucks up to an average of 
9,000 per month, but in September pro- 
duction began to drop off, a not too 
important recession in view of the loom- 
ing motor fuel crisis. 

The German railway system had been 
under sporadic air attacks for years but 
was still viable. Troops could be shut- 
tled from one fighting front to another 
with only very moderate and occasional 
delays; raw materials and finished mili- 
tary goods had little waste time in rail 
transport. In mid-August the weekly car 
loadings by the Reichsbahn hit a top 
figure of 899,091 cars. 

In September Hitler had no reason 
to doubt, if he bothered to contemplate 
the transport needed for a great counter- 
offensive, that the rich and flexible Ger- 
man railroad and canal complex would 
prove sufficient to the task ahead and 
could successfully resist even a co-ordi- 
nated and systematic air attack— as yet, 
of course, untried. 

In German war production the third 
quarter of 1944 witnessed an interesting 
conjuncture, one readily susceptible to 
misinterpretation by Hitler and Speer or 
by Allied airmen and intelligence. On 
the one hand German production was, 
with the major exceptions of the oil 
and aircraft industries, at the peak out- 
put of the war; on the other hand the 
Allied air effort against the German 
means of war making was approaching 
a peak in terms of tons of bombs and 
the number of planes which could be 



launched against the Third Reich.^ But 
without the means of predicting what 
damage the Allied air effort could and 
would inflict if extrapolated three or 
six months into the future, and certainly 
without any advisers willing so to pre- 
dict, Hitler might reason that German 
production and transport, if wisely 
husbanded and rigidly controlled, could 
support a major attack before the close 
of 1944. Indeed, only a fortnight prior 
to the briefing of 16 September Minister 
Speer had assured Hitler that German 
war stocks could be expected to last 
through 1945. Similarly, in the head- 
quarters of the "Western Allies it was 
easy and natural to assume the the 
thousands of tons of bombs dropped on 
Germany must inevitably have weakened 
the vital sections of the German war 
economy to a point where collapse was 
imminent and likely to come before the 
end of 1944. 

Hitler's optimism and miscalculation, 
then, resulted in the belief that Germany 
had the material means to launch and 
maintain a great counteroffensive, a 
belief nurtured by many of his trusted 
aides. Conversely, the miscalculation of 
the Western Allies as to the destruction 



^ The results of the numerous joint intelligence 
studies undertaken immediately after World War 
II on the relation between German production 
and the Allied air offensive are well summarized 
in the third volume of the official Air Forces 
series, Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Gate, 
eds., "The Army Air Forces in World War II," 
vol. Ill, Europe: ARGUMENT to V E Day, Jan- 
uary to May (Ghicago: The University of 
Ghicago Press, 1951). See also MS :)!^ P-059, Tank 
Losses (Generalmajor Burkhart Mueller-Hille- 
biand); K. O. Sauer, Effects of Aerial Warfare 
on German Armament Production (T.I. 341, M.I.F. 
3); United States Strategic Bombing Survey 
(USSBS), Military Analysis Division, The Impact 
Of the Allied Air Effort On German Logistics 
(Washington, 1947). 



6 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



wrought by their bombers contributed 
greatly to the pervasive optimism which 
would make it difficult, if not impossible, 
for Allied commanders and intelligence 
agencies to believe or perceive that Ger- 
many still retained the material muscle 
for a mighty blow. 

Assuming that the Third Reich pos- 
sessed the material means for a quick 
transition from the defensive to the 
offensive, could Hitler and his entourage 
rely on the morale of the German nation 
and its fighting forces in this sixth year of 
the war? The five years which had 
elapsed since the invasion of Poland had 
taken heavy toll of the best physical 
specimens of the Reich. The irreplace- 
able loss in military manpower (the 
dead, missing, those demobilized because 
of disability or because of extreme family 
hardship) amounted to 3,266,686 men 
and 92,811 officers as of 1 September 
1944.^ Even without an accurate measure 
of the cumulative losses suffered by the 
civilian population, or of the dwellings 
destroyed, it is evident that the German 
home front was suffering directly and 
heavily from enemy action, despite the 
fact that the Americans and British were 
unable to get together on an air cam- 
paign designed to destroy the will of the 
German nation. Treason (as the Nazis 
saw it) had reared its ugly head in the 
abortive Putsch of July 1944, and the 
skeins of this plot against the person of 
the Fuehrer still were unraveling in the 
torture chambers of the Gestapo. 



'German ground force losses are discussed in 
more detail in H. M. Cole, Tk£ Lorraine Campaign, 
United States Army in World War II (Washington, 
1950), pp. 29-32. See also OKH, Gen. St. d. H/Organi- 
zalions Ableilung (hereafter cited as OKH/Org. Abt.) 
KTB, 2 December 1944, which gives the revised 
personnel situation as of 1 November 1944. 



Had the Nazi Reich reached a point in 
its career like that which German his- 
tory recorded in the collapse of the 
German Empire during the last months 
of the 1914-1918 struggle? Hitler, 
always prompt to parade his personal 
experiences as a Frontsoldat in the Great 
War and to quote this period of his life 
as testimony refuting opinions offered by 
his generals, was keenly aware of the 
moral disintegration of the German 
people and the armies in 1918. Nazi 
propaganda had made the "stab in the 
back" (the theory that Germany had not 
been defeated in 1918 on the battlefield 
but had collapsed as a result of treason 
and weakness on the home front) an 
article of German faith, with the 
Fuehrer its leading proponent. What- 
ever soul-searching Hitler may have ex- 
perienced privately as a result of the 
attempt on his life and the precipitate 
retreats of his armies, there is no out- 
ward evidence that he saw in these 
events any kinship to those of 1918. 

He had great faith in the German 
people and in their devotion to himself 
as Leader, a faith both mystic and cyni- 
cal. The noise of street demonstrations 
directed against himself or his regime 
had not once, during the years of war, 
assailed his ears. German troops had won 
great victories in the past, why should 
they not triumph again? The great de- 
feats had been, so Hitler's intuition told 
him, the fruit of treason among high 
officers or, at the least, the result of in- 
sufficient devotion to National Socialism 
in the hearts and minds of the defeated 
commanders and the once powerful 
General Staff. The assassination attempt, 
as seen through Hitler's own eyes, was 
proof positive that the suspicions which 
he had long entertained vis-d-vis the 



THE ORIGINS 



7 



Army General Staff were correct. Now, 
he believed, this malignant growth could 
be cut away; exposure showed that it 
had no deep roots and had not contami- 
nated either the fighting troops or the 
rank and file of the German people. 

Despite the heavy losses suffered by the 
Wehrmacht in the past five years, Hitler 
was certain that replacements could be 
found and new divisions created. His 
intuition told him that too many officers 
and men had gravitated into headquar- 
ters staffs, administrative and security 
services. He was enraged by the growing 
disparity in the troop lists between 
"ration strength" and "combat strength" 
and, as a military dictator, expected that 
the issuance of threatening orders and 
the appointment of the brutal Heinrich 
Himmler as chief of the Replacement 
Army would eventually reverse this 
trend. At the beginning of September 
Hitler was impatiently stamping the 
ground and waiting for the new battal- 
ions to spring forth. The months of July 
and August had produced eighteen new 
divisions, ten panzer brigades and nearly 
a hundred separate infantry battalions. 
Now twenty-five new divisions, about a 
thousand artillery pieces, and a score of 
general headquarters brigades of various 
types were demanded for delivery in 
October and November. 

How had Germany solved the man- 
power problem? From a population of 
some eighty million, in the Greater 
Reich, the Wehrmacht carried a total 
of 10,165,303 officers and men on its 
rosters at the beginning of September 
1944. What part of this total was paper 
strength is impossible to say; certainly 
the personnel systems in the German 
armed forces had not been able to keep 
an accurate accounting of the tremen- 



dous losses suffered in the summer of 
1944. Nonetheless, this was the strength 
figuratively paraded before Hitler by his 
adjutants. The number of units in the 
Wehrmacht order of battle was impres- 
sive (despite such wholesale losses as the 
twenty-seven divisions engulfed during 
the Russian summer offensive against 
Army Group Center) . The collective 
German ground forces at the beginning 
of September 1944 numbered 327 divi- 
sions and brigades, of which 3 1 divisions 
and 13 brigades were armored. Again it 
must be noted that many of these units 
no longer in truth had the combat 
strength of either division or brigade 
(some had only their headquarters staff), 
but again, in Hitler's eyes, this order of 
battle represented fighting units capa- 
ble of employment. Such contradiction 
as came from the generals commanding 
the paper-thin formations, some of whom 
privately regarded the once formidable 
Wehrmacht as a "paper tiger," would be 
brushed angrily aside as evidence of in- 
competence, defeatism— or treason. 

But the maintenance of this formid- 
able array of divisions and brigades re- 
flected the very real military potential 
of the Greater Reich, not yet fully ex- 
ploited even at the end of five years of 
what had been called total war. As in 
1915 the Germans had found that in a 
long conflict the hospitals provided a 
constant flow of replacements, and that 
this source could be utilized very effec- 
tively by the simple expedient of progres- 
sively lowering the physical standards 
required for front-line duty. In addition, 
each year brought a new class to the 
colors as German youth matured. This 
source could be further exploited by 
lowering the age limit at one end of the 
conscription spectrum while increasing it 



8 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



at the other. In 1944, for example, the 
age limit for "volunteers" for the ranks 
was dropped to sixteen years and party 
pressure applied conducive to volun- 
teering. At the same time the older con- 
scription classes were combed through 
and, in 1944, registration was carried 
back to include males born in 1884, 

Another and extremely important 
manpower acquisition, made for the first 
time on any scale in the late summer of 
1944, came from the Navy and Air 
Force. Neither of these establishments 
remained in any position, at this stage 
of the war, to justify the relatively large 
numbers still carried on their rosters. 
While it is true that transferring air 
force ground crews to rifle companies 
would not change the numerical strength 
of the armed forces by jot or tittle, such 
practice would produce new infantry or 
armored divisions bearing new and, in 
most cases, high numbers. 

In spite of party propaganda that the 
Third Reich was full mobilized behind 
the Fuehrer and notwithstanding the 
constant and slavish mouthing of the 
phrase "total war," Germany had not, 
in five years of struggle, completely uti- 
lized its manpower— and equally impor- 
tant, womanpower— in prosecuting the 
war.^ Approximately four million public 
servants and individuals deferred from 
military service for other reasons consti- 
tuted a reserve as yet hardly touched. 
And, despite claims to the contrary, no 
thorough or rational scheme had been 
adopted to comb all able-bodied men 
out of the factories and from the fields 

' B. H. Klein in his Germany's Economic Prep- 
arations for War (Cambridge: Harvard University 
Press, 1959) advances the thesis that, contrary to 
Nazi propaganda, the Third Reich never went 
over to an all-out industrial and economic effort 
until the war was lost. 



for service in uniform. In five years only 
a million German men and women had 
been mobilized for the labor force. In- 
deed, it may be concluded that the bulk 
of industrial and agrarian replacements 
for men drafted into the armed services 
was supplied by some seven million 
foreign workers and prisoners of war 
slaving for the conqueror. 

Hitler hoped to lay his hands on those 
of his faithful followers who thus far had 
escaped the rigors of the soldier life by 
enfolding themselves in the uniform of 
the party functionary. The task of de- 
fining the nonessential and making the 
new order palatable was given to Reich 
Minister Joseph Goebbels, who on 24 
August 1944 announced the new mobili- 
zation scheme: schools and theaters to be 
closed down, a 60-hour week to be intro- 
duced and holidays temporarily abol- 
ished, most types of publications to be 
suspended (with the notable exception 
of "standard political works," Mein 
Kampf, for one), small shops of many 
types to be closed, the staffs of govern- 
mental bureaus to be denuded, and simi- 
lar belt tightening. By 1 September this 
drastic comb-out was in full swing and 
accompanied within the uniformed 
forces by measures designed to reduce 
the headquarters staffs and shake loose 
the "rear area swine," in the Fuehrer's 
contemptuous phrase." 

This new flow of manpower would 
give Hitler the comforting illusion of 
combat strength, an illusion risen from 
his indulgence in what may be identified 
to the American reader as "the numbers 

"For a detailed description of the Goebbels 
comb-out see the manuscript study prepared by 
Charles V. P. von Luttichau entitled The Ardennes 
Offensive, Germany's Situation in the Fall of 
1944, Part 11, The Economic Situation (1953). 
OCMH. 



THE ORIGINS 



9 



racket." Dozens of German officers who 
at one time or another had reason to 
observe the Fuehrer at work have com- 
mented on his obsession with numbers 
and his implicit faith in statistics no 
matter how murky the sources from 
which they came or how misleading 
when translated into fact. So Hitler had 
insisted on the creation of new forma- 
tions with new numbers attached there- 
to, rather than bringing back to- full 
combat strength those units which had 
been bled white in battle. Thus the 
German order of battle distended in the 
autumn of 1944, bloated by new units 
while the strength of the German ground 
forces declined. In the same manner 
Hitler accepted the monthly production 
goals set for the armored vehicle pro- 
ducers by Speer's staff as being identical 
with the number of tanks and assault 
guns which in fact would reach the front 
lines. Bemused by numbers on paper and 
surrounded by a staff which had little or 
no combat experience and by now was 
perfectly housebroken— never introduc- 
ing unpleasant questions as to what these 
numbers really meant— Hitler still saw 
himself as the Feldherr, with the men 
and the tanks and the guns required to 
wrest the initiative from the encircling 
enemy. 

How the Plan Was Born 

The plan for the Ardennes counter- 
offensive was born in the mind and will 
of Hitler the Feldherr. Its conception 
and growth from ovum are worthy of 
study by the historian and the student 
of the military art as a prime example 
of the role which may be played by the 
single man and the single mind in the 
conduct of modern war and the direction 



of an army numbered in the millions. 

Such was the military, political, eco- 
nomic, and moral position of the Third 
Reich in the autumn of 1944 that a 
leader who lacked all of the facts and 
who by nature clung to a mystic confi- 
dence in his star might rationally con- 
clude that defeat could be postponed 
and perhaps even avoided by some de- 
cisive stroke. To this configuration of 
circumstances must be added Hitler's 
implicit faith in his own military genius, 
a faith to all appearance unshaken by 
defeat and treason, a faith that accepted 
the possibility, even the probability, that 
the course of conflict might be reversed 
by a military stroke of genius. 

There was, after all, a prototype in 
German history which showed how the 
genius and the will of the Feldherr 
might wrest victory from certain defeat. 
Behind the desk in Hitler's study hung a 
portrait of Frederick the Great. This 
man, of all the great military leaders in 
world history, was Hitler's ideal. The 
axioms given by Frederick to his generals 
were on the tip of Hitler's tongue, ever 
ready to refute the pessimist or general- 
ize away a sticky fact. When his generals 
protested the inability of soldier flesh 
and blood to meet further demands. 
Hitler simply referred to the harsh de- 
mands made of his grenadiers by Fred- 
erick. When the cruelties of the military 
punitive code were increased to the 
point that even the stomachs of Prussian 
officers rebelled, Hitler paraded the 
brutal code of Frederick's army before 
them. Even the oath taken by SS officer 
candidates was based on the Frederician 
oath to the flag. 

An omnivorous reader of military his- 
tory, Hitler was fond of relating episodes 
therefrom as evidence of his catholic 



10 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



military knowledge or as footnotes prov- 
ing the soundness of a decision. In a very 
human way he selected those historical 
examples which seemed to support his 
own views. Napoleon, before the inva- 
sion of Russia, had forbidden any refer- 
ence to the ill-fated campaign of Charles 
XII of Sweden because "the circum- 
stances were altered." Hitler in turn had 
brushed aside the fate of both these 
predecessors, in planning his Russian 
campaign, because they had lacked tanks 
and planes. In 1944, however, Hitler's 
mind turned to his example, Frederick 
II, and found encouragement and sup- 
port. Frederick, at the commencement 
of the Seven Years War, had faced 
superior forces converging on his king- 
dom from all points of the compass. At 
Rossbach and Leuthen he had taken 
great risk but had defeated armies twice 
the strength of his own. By defeating his 
enemies in detail, Frederick had been 
able to hang on until the great alliance 
formed against Prussia had split as the 
result of an unpredictable historical 
accident. 

Three things seemed crystal clear to 
Hitler as explanation for Frederick's 
final victory over his great enemies: 
victory on the battlefield, and not defeat, 
was the necessary preliminary to success- 
ful diplomatic negotiations and a peace 
settlement; the enemy coalition had 
failed to present a solid front when 
single members had suffered defeat; 
finally, Prussia had held on until, as 
Hitler paraphrased Frederick's own 
words, "one of [the] damned enemies 
gets too tired to fight any more." If 
Hitler needed moral support in his de- 
cision to prepare for the counteroffensive 
at a time when Germany still was reeling 
from enemy blows, it is very probable 



that he found this in the experience and 
ultimate triumph of Frederick called the 
Great. 

Although the first announcement of 
the projected counteroffensive in the 
Ardennes was made by Hitler in the 
meeting on 16 September, the idea had 
been forming for some weeks in the 
Fuehrer's mind. Many of the details in 
this development can never be known. 
The initial thought processes were 
buried with Hitler; his closest associates 
soon followed him to the grave, leaving 
only the barest information. The gen- 
eral outlines of the manner in which 
the plan took form can be discerned, 
however, of course with a gap here and 
there and a necessary slurring over ex- 
act dates.* 

The first and very faint glimmerings 
of the idea that a counteroffensive must 
be launched in the west are found in a 
long tirade made by Hitler before Gen- 
eraloberst Alfred Jodl and a few other 
officers on 31 July 1944. At this moment 
Hitler's eyes are fixed on the Western 
Front where the Allies, held fast for 
several weeks in the Normandy hedge- 
rows, have finally broken through the 
containing German forces in the neigh- 
borhood of Avranches. Still physically 
shaken by the bomb blast which so 
nearly had cut short his career, the 
Fuehrer raves and rambles, boasts, 
threatens, and complains. As he mean- 
ders through the "conference," really a 
solo performance, one idea reappears 

' Exact dating for the various phases of the 
Ardennes plan, as these evolved in Hitler's mind, 
now is impossible. Magna E. Bauer has attempted 
to develop a chronology in MS # R-g, The Idea 
for the German Ardennes Offensive, 1944. See 
also MSS # P-069 (Kreipe) and A-862 The Prep- 
arations for the German Offensive in the 
Ardennes, September to 16 December 1944 (Maj. 
Percy E. Schramm) . 



THE ORIGINS 



11 



again and again: the final decision must 
come in the west and if necessary the 
other fronts must suffer so that a con- 
centrated, major effort can be made 
there. No definite plans can be made as 
yet, says Hitler, but he himself will 
accept the responsibility for planning 
and for command; the latter he will 
exercise from a headquarters some place 
in the Black Forest or the Vosges. To 
guarantee secrecy, nobody will be 
allowed to inform the Commander in 
Chief West or his staff of these far- 
reaching plans; the WFSt, that is, Jodl, 
must form a small operational staff to 
aid the Fuehrer by furnishing any 
needed data.'' 

Hitler's arrogation to himself of all 
command and decision vis-d-vis some 
major and concerted effort in the west 
was no more than an embittered re- 
statement, with the assassination attempt 
in mind, of a fact which had been 
stuffed down the throats of the General 
Staff and the famous field commanders 
since the first gross defeat in Russia and 
had been underlined in blood by the 
executions following the Putsch of 20 
July. The decision to give priority to 
the Western Front, if one can take 
Hitler at his own word and waive a 
possible emotional reaction to the sud- 
den Allied plunge through the German 
line at the base of the Cotentin penin- 
sula, is something new and worthy of 
notice. 

The strategic and operational prob- 
lem posed by a war in which Germany 
had to fight an enemy in the east while 
at the same time opposing an enemy in 
the west was at least as old as the 
unification of Germany. The problem of 

'The Wehrmachtfuehrungsstab, or WFSt, was 
the Armed Forces Operations Staff. 



a war on two fronts had been analyzed 
and solutions had been proposed by the 
great German military thinkers, among 
these Moltke the Elder, Schlieffen, and 
Ludendorff, whose written works, so 
Hitler boasted, were more familiar to 
him than to those of his entourage who 
wore the red stripe of the General Staff. 
Moltke and Schlieffen, traveling by 
the theoretical route, had arrived at the 
conclusion that Germany lacked the 
strength to conduct successful offensive 
operations simultaneously in the east 
and west. Ludendorff (Hitler's quondam 
colleague in the comic opera Beer Hall 
Putsch) had seen this theory put to the 
test and proven in the 1914-1918 war. 
Hitler had been forced to learn the 
same lesson the hard way in the summer 
of 1944. 

A fanatical believer in the Clause- 
witzian doctrine of the offensive as the 
purest and only decisive form of war. 
Hitler only had to decide whether his 
projected counteroffensive should be 
made in the east or the west. In con- 
trast to the situation that had existed in 
the German High Command of World 
War I, there was no sharp cleavage 
between "Easterners" and "Westerners" 
with the two groups struggling to gain 
control of the Army High Command and 
so dictate a favored strategy. It is true 
that OKH (personified at this moment 
by Guderian) had direct responsibility 
for the war on the Eastern Front and 
quite naturally believed that victory or 
defeat would be decided there. On the 
other hand, OKW, with its chiefs Keitel 
and Jodl close to the seat of power, saw 
the Western Front as the paramount 
theater of operations. Again, this was a 
natural result of the direct responsibility 
assigned this headquarters for the con- 



12 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



duct of all operations outside of the 
Eastern Front. Hitler, however, had 
long since ceased to be influenced by 
his generals save in very minor matters. 
Nor is there any indication that Keitel 
or Jodl exercised any influence in turn- 
ing the Fuehrer's attention to the west. 

There is no simple or single explana- 
tion for Hitler's choice of the Western 
Front as the scene of the great German 
counterstroke. The problem was com- 
plex; so were Hitler's mental processes. 
Some part of his reasoning breaks 
through in his conferences, speeches, 
and orders, but much is left to be in- 
ferred. 

As early as 1939 Hitler had gone on 
record as to the absolute necessity of 
protecting the Ruhr industrial area, the 
heart of the entire war-making machine. 
In November 1943, on the heels of 
Eastern Front reverses and before the 
Western Allies had set foot in strength 
across the Channel, Hitler repeated his 
fears for the Ruhr, ". . . but now while 
the danger in the East remained it was 
outweighed by the threat from the West 
where enemy success would strike im- 
mediately at the heart of the German 
war economy . . . ." ^ Even after the 
disastrous impact of the 1944 Soviet 
summer offensive he clung to the belief 
that the Ruhr factories were more im- 
portant to Germany than the loss of 
territory in the east. He seems to have 
felt that the war production in Silesia 
was far out of Soviet reach: in any case 
Silesia produced less than the Ruhr. 
Then too, in the summer and early 
autumn of 1944 the Allied air attacks 

* The so-called Hitler Conferences from which 
Hitler's earlier thinking is derived are found in 
whole or in fragments in Felix Gilbert, ed.. 
Hitler Directs His War (New York: Oxford Uni- 
versity Press, 1950). 



against the Ruhr had failed to deliver 
any succession of knockout blows, nor 
was the very real vulnerability of this 
area yet apparent. 

Politically, if Hitler hoped to lead 
from strength and parlay a military 
victory into a diplomatic coup, the mono- 
lithic USSR was a less susceptible object 
than the coalition of powers in the west. 
Whereas Nazi propagandists breathed 
hatred of the Soviet, the tone toward 
England and the United States more 
often was that of contempt and derision, 
as befitted the "decadent democracies." 
Hitler seems to have partaken of this 
view, and in any case he believed that 
the Allies might easily split asunder if 
one of them was jolted hard enough. 
The inability of the western leaders to 
hold their people together in the face 
of defeat was an oft-expressed and car- 
dinal axiom of the German Fuehrer, 
despite the example of the United King- 
dom to the contrary. 

From one point of view the decision 
for the west was the result of progressive 
elimination as to the other fronts. In 
no way could victory in Italy or Finland 
change the course of the war. Russia 
likewise offered no hope for any de- 
cisive victory with the forces which Ger- 
many might expect to gather in 1944. 
The campaigns in the east had finally 
convinced Hitler, or so it would appear, 
that the vast distances in the east and 
the seemingly inexhaustible flow of 
Soviet divisions created a military prob- 
lem whose solution lay beyond the capa- 
bilities of the Third Reich as long as 
the latter was involved in a multifront 
war. To put it another way, what Ger- 
many now needed was a quick victory 
capable of bearing immediate diplo- 
matic fruit. Between 22 June 1941 and 



THE ORIGINS 



13 



1 November 1942 the German armies 
in the USSR had swept up 5,150,000 
prisoners o£ war (setting aside the Rus- 
sians killed or severely wounded) but 
still had failed to bore in deep enough 
to deliver a paralyzing blow. A quick 
and decisive success in the second half 
of 1944 against 555 Soviet units of divi- 
sion size was out of the question, even 
though Hitler would rave about the 
"Russian bluff" and deride the estimates 
prepared by his Intelligence, Fremde 
Heere Ost. 

Still other factors were involved in 
Hitler's decision. For one thing the 
Allied breakout in Normandy was a 
more pressing danger to the Third 
Reich than the Soviet advance in the 
east. Intuitively, perhaps. Hitler fol- 
lowed Schlieffen in viewing an enemy 
on the Rhine as more dangerous than 
an enemy in East Prussia. If this was 
Hitler's view, then the Allied dash 
across France in the weeks following 
would give all the verification required. 
Whether at this particular time Hitler 
saw the German West Wall as the best 
available springboard for a counterof- 
fensive is uncertain. But it is quite clear 
that the possession of a seemingly solid 
base for such an operation figured 
largely in the ensuing development of 
a Western Front attack. 

After the announcement of the west 
as the crucial front, in the 31 July con- 
ference. Hitler seemingly turned his 
attention, plus such reserves as were 
available, to the east. Perhaps this was 
only a passing aberration, perhaps Hitler 
had been moved by choler in July and 
now was in the grip of indecision. Events 
on both fronts, however, were moving 
so rapidly that a final decision would 
have to be made. The death of Gen- 



eralfeldmarschall Guenther von Kluge, 
Commander in Chief West, seems to 
have triggered the next step toward 
irrevocable commitment. Coincident 
with the appointment of Model to re- 
place the suicide. Hitler met with a few 
of his immediate staff on 19 August to 
consider the situation in France. During 
this conference he instructed Walter 
Buhle, chief of the Army Staff at OKW, 
and Speer, the minister in charge of 
military production and distribution, to 
prepare large allotments of men and 
materiel for shipment to the Western 
Front. At the same time Hitler informed 
the conferees that he proposed to take 
the initiative at the beginning of Novem- 
ber when the Allied air forces would be 
unable to fly. By 19 August, it would 
appear. Hitler had made up his mind: 
an attack would be made, it would be 
made on the Western Front, and the 
target date would be early November. 

The remaining days of August were a 
nightmare for the German divisions in 
the west and for the German field com- 
manders. Shattered into bits and pieces 
by the weight of Allied guns and armor, 
hunted and hounded along the roads by 
the unopposed Allied air forces, cap- 
tured and killed in droves, the German 
forces in France were thoroughly beaten. 
All requests for permission to withdraw 
to more defensible positions were re- 
jected in peremptory fashion by Hitler's 
headquarters, with the cold rejoinder 
"stand and hold" or "fight to the last 
man." In most cases these orders were 
read on the run by the retreating divi- 
sions. 

At the beginning of September Gen- 
eralfeldmarschall Walter Model was 
"put in the big picture" by the Fuehrer. 
Hitler gave as his "intention" for the 



14 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



future conduct of operations that the 
retreating German armies must hold 
forward of the West Wall, thus allowing 
time needed to repair these defenses. 
In general the holding position indi- 
cated by Hitler ran from the Dutch 
coast, through northern Belgium, along 
the forward edge of the West Wall in 
the sector between Aachen and the 
Moselle River, then via the western 
borders of Alsace and Lorraine to some 
indefinite connection with the Swiss 
frontier. Here, for the first time on the 
Western Front, Hitler relaxed his seem- 
ingly pigheaded views on the unyielding 
defense and permitted, even enjoined, 
a withdrawal. This permission, however, 
was given for a very definite purpose: 
to permit the reorganization of Ger- 
many's defense at or forward of the 
West Wall, the outer limit of Greater 
Germany. 

Despite the debacle in France, Hitler 
professed himself as unworried and even 
sanguine. On the first day of September, 
Rundstedt was recalled to the position 
of Commander in Chief West which he 
had been forced to relinquish at the end 
of June under Hitler's snide solicitude 
for his "health." The new commander 
was told that the enemy in the west 
v/ould shortly be brought to a halt by 
logistic failures (in this forecast the 
Fuehrer's intuition served him well) and 
that the giant steps being taken toward 
Germany were the work of isolated 
"armbred spearheads" which had out- 
run the main Allied forces and now 
could be snipped off by local counter- 
attacks, whereupon the front would sta- 
bilize. Since the U. S. Third Army under 
Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., was 
advancing with its right flank open (con- 
tact with the U.S. Seventh Army driving 



north from the Mediterranean had not 
as yet been made) , Hitler ordered 
Rundstedt to counterattack against this 
exposed flank and cut the advanced 
American armor by seizing Reims. For 
this unenviable task the Fifth Panzer 
Army, at the moment little more than 
an army headquarters and a few army 
troops, would be beefed up and handed 
over to the new commander in chief.* 

The thrust to Reims was not intended 
as the grand-scale effort to regain the 
initiative which by this time was fully 
rooted in Hitler's mind. The Fifth 
Panzer Army was to counterattack, that 
is, to be committed with limited forces 
for the attainment of a limited object. 
The scheme visualized for November, 
no matter how vague its shape in the 
first week of September, was that of a 
counteroffensive, or a major commit- 
ment of men and materiel designed to 
wrest the initiative from the enemy in 
pursuance of a major strategic victory. 

The counterattack was made, but not 
as planned and not toward Reims. The 
base for the proposed operation, west of 
the Moselle River, was lost to the Amer- 
icans before the attack could be 
launched. A watered-down variant on 
the east side of the Moselle was set in 
motion on 18 September, with Lun^- 
ville as the first objective; it degenerated 
into a series of small, piecemeal attacks 
of only momentary significance.^" This, 
the single major effort to win time and 
space by counterattack and so give 
breathing space to the Reich and footing 
for a counteroffensive, must be written 



° The background of the abortive Fifth Panzer 
Army attack is described in Cole, The Lorraine 
Campaign, pp. 190-95. 

" The story of this operation is told in Cole, 
The Lorraine Campaign, ch. V, passim. 



THE ORIGINS 



15 



off as a complete failure. Nonetheless, 
by the second week of September there 
were encouraging evidences all along the 
Western Front that the battered German 
troops were beginning to get a toehold 
here and there, and that the enemy who 
had run so fast and so far was not holding 
the pace. Except for a handful of bunk- 
ers and pillboxes the battle front was 
in process of stabilizing forward of the 
West Wall. Meanwhile German efforts 
to reactivate and rearm these fortifica- 
tions were in full swing. 

Despite the somber and often despair- 
ing reports prepared by Model and his 
successor, Rundstedt, during late Au- 
gust and early September, Hitler and 
his intimate staff in the East Prussian 
headquarters continued to give thought 
to a decisive attack in the west. About 
6 September, Jodl gave the Fuehrer an 
evaluation of the situation inherited by 
Rundstedt. The task at hand was to 
withdraw as many troops from the line 
as possible, refit and re-form units. On 
the scale required, this work could not 
be completed before the first day of 
November. Since he was probably lis- 
tening to a clearer phrasing of his own 
cloudy concept, Hitler agreed, but with 
the proviso that the battle front must 
be kept as far to the west as possible. 
The reason, expressed apparently for 
the first time, was that the Allied air 
effort had to be kept at a distance from 
the Rhine bridges or the consequences 
might be disastrous. Did Hitler fear 
that fighter-bombers operating from 
fields in France or Belgium might leave 
the Rhine crossing complex stricken and 
incapable of supporting the line of com- 
munications to the armies then on the 
left bank of the Rhine? Or did he fore- 
see that the Rhine bridges would be 



systematically hammered in an effort to 
strangle the German bid for the initia- 
tive when the day for the counteroffen- 
sive came? 

As a target date, i November now 
seemed firm. Hitler had tossed it out in 
an off-the-cuff gesture; Jodl had evalu- 
ated it in terms of the military situation 
as seen in the remote Wolf's Lair; and 
in his first report after assuming com- 
mand, Rundstedt unwittingly added his 
blessing by estimating that the West 
Wall defenses would be refurbished and 
manned sometime around 20 October. 
The Commander in Chief West, be it 
noted, was not yet privy to any attack 
plans except those for the Fifth Panzer 
Army. 

Since Hitler was convinced that his 
western armies would hold before or at 
the West Wall position, and by intuition 
or self-hypnosis he held to this convic- 
tion, the next step was to amass the 
forces needed to issue offensively from 
the West Wall base of operations. Dur- 
ing July and August eighteen new divi- 
sions had been organized, fifteen of 
which were sent to the Eastern Front, 
one to Norway, and only two to the 
Western Front. A further Hitler order 
on 2 September commanded the creation 
of an "operational reserve" numbering 
twenty-five new divisions. This order 
lay behind the comb-out program en- 
trusted to Goebbels and definitely was 
in preparation for a western counter- 
offensive. Early in August the Western 
Front had been given priority on tanks 
coming ofE the assembly line; this now 
was made a permanent proviso and 
extended to cover all new artillery and 
assault gun production. 

Further additions to the contemplated 
reserve would have to come from other 



16 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



theaters of war. On 4 September OKW 
ordered a general movement of artillery 
units in the Balkans back to the Western 
Front. The southeastern theater now 
was bereft of much of its early signifi- 
cance and the German forces therein 
stood to lose most of their heavy equip- 
ment in the event of a Soviet drive into 
the Balkans. The northern theater like- 
wise was a potential source of reinforce- 
ments, particularly following the defec- 
tion of Finland in early September and 
the collapse of a homogeneous front. 
These "side shows" could be levied upon 
for the western counteroffensive, and 
even the sore-beset German armies in 
the east, or so Hitler reasoned, could 
contribute armored divisions to the west. 
But in the main, the plan still evolving 
within the closed confines of the Wolf's 
Lair turned on the withdrawal and re- 
habilitation of units which had taken 
part in the battle for France. As a first 
step the SS panzer divisions in the west 
were ordered out of the line (13 Sep- 
tember) and turned over to a new army 
headquarters, that of the Sixth Panzer 
Army. 

Having nominated a headquarters to 
control the reconstitution of units spe- 
cifically named for participation in an 
attack to be made in the west, the logical 
next step in development of the plan 
came in Hitler's announcement on 16 
September: the attack would be de- 
livered in the Ardennes and Antwerp 
would be the objective. 

Why the Ardennes? To answer this 
question in a simple and direct manner 
is merely to say that the Ardennes would 
be the scene of a great winter battle 
because the Fuehrer had placed his 
finger on a map and made a pronounce- 
ment. This simplified version was agreed 



to in the months after the war by all 
of those major German military figures 
in Hitler's entourage who survived the 
last battles and the final Gotterdam- 
merung purges. It is possible, however, 
that Hitler had discussed the operational 
concept of a counteroffensive through the 
Ardennes with Jodl— and before the 16 
September edict. The relationship be- 
tween these two men has bearing on the 
entire "prehistory" of the Ardennes 
campaign. It is analyzed by the head- 
quarters diary-keeper and historian, 
Maj. Percy E. Schramm, as follows: 




General Jodl 

The function of Genobst Jodl in the 
Fuehrer's headquarters consisted of pre- 
paring—on the general staff level— the de- 
cisions the Fuehrer made in his capacity of 
C-in-C of the Wehrmacht. Jodl also was 
responsible for their execution. But these 
were not his only duties. Whenever the 
Fuehrer conceived a new military plan it 
was Jodl with whom the idea was discussed 



THE ORIGINS 



17 



and closely examined. It was again Jodl 
who obtained the information necessary to 
transmute a vague idea into a workable 
plan. It was also he who raised objections 
and suggestions which had been voiced by 
the immediately subordinate commands. 
These facts were so little known to the out- 
side world that the public scarcely knew 
Jodl, and that within the Wehrmacht— 
even among those in leading positions— he 
was mostly considered only as an executive 
tool, by some people even as too willing a 
tool. The view was widely held that the 
Fuehrer did not accept any opinion other 
than his own. It was not recognized that, 
although Hitler in the final analysis might 
only follow his own trend of thought, he 
acquired the inner assurance necessary for 
his actions by constantly discussing his in- 
tentions within the confines of his inner 
circle. For this reason, the Chief of the 
Wehrmacht Operations Staff (Jodl) was 
an extremely important figure in all stra- 
tegic decisions. ... In his relationship to 
the Fuehrer, his functions were not merely 
executive, but involved a very complex 
process of giving and taking, altering and 
retrenching, warning and stimulating.i^ 

The evidence is clear that Jodl and 
a few of his juniors from the Wehrmacht 
Operations StaflF did examine the 
Ardennes concept very closely in the 
period from 25 September, when Hitler 
gave the first order to start detailed 
planning, to 1 1 October, when Jodl 
submitted the initial operations plan. 
Other but less certain evidence indicates 
that those present in the select confer- 
ence on 16 September were taken by 
surprise when Hitler made his announce- 
ment. Jodl definitely ascribes the selec- 
tion of the Ardennes to Hitler and Hitler 
alone, but at the time Jodl expressed 
this view he was about to be tried before 
an international tribunal on the charge 
of preparing aggressive war. Even so, 

"MS # B-034, OKW War Diary, i April-i8 
December 1944: The West (Schramm). 



the "argument from silence,"— the fact 
that there is no evidence of other 
thought on the Ardennes as the point 
of concentration prior to Hitler's state- 
ment on 16 September— has some valid- 
ity- 

The most impressive argument for 
ascribing sole authorship of the Arden- 
nes idea to Hitler is found in the simple 
fact that every major military decision 
in the German High Command for 
months past had been made by the 
Fuehrer, and that these Hitler decisions 
were made in detail, never in principle 
alone. 

The major reasons for Hitler's selec- 
tion of the Ardennes were stated by 
himself, although never in a single tabu- 
lation on a single occasion nor with any 
ordering of importance: 

The enemy front in the Ardennes sector 
was very thinly manned. 

A blow here would strike the seam be- 
tween the British and Americans and lead 
to political as well as military disharmony 
between the Allies. Furthermore an en- 
trance along this seam would isolate the 
British 21 Army Group and allow the en- 
circlement and destruction of the British 
and Canadians before the American leader- 
ship (particularly the political leadership) 
could react. 

The distance from the jump-off line to a 
solid strategic objective (Antwerp) was not 
too great and could be covered quickly, 
even in bad weather. 

The configuration of the Ardennes area 
was such that the ground for maneuver was 
limited and so would require the use of 
relatively few divisions. 

The terrain to the east of the break- 
through sector selected was very heavily 
wooded and offered cover against Allied air 
observation and attack during the build-up 
for the assault. 

An attack to regain the initiative in this 
particular area would erase the enemy 
ground threat to the Ruhr. 



18 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



Although Hitler never referred di- 
rectly to the lightning thrust made in 
1940 through the Ardennes as being in 
any sense a prototype for the operation 
in the same area four and a half years 
later, there is indication of a more than 
casual connection between the two cam- 
paigns in Hitler's own thinking. For 
example, during the 16 September ex- 
pose he set the attainment of "another 
Dunkirk" as his goal. Then, as detailed 
planning began. Hitler turned again 
and again to make operational proposals 
which had more than chance similarity 
to those he had made before the 1940 
offensive. When, in September 1939, 
Hitler had announced his intention to 
attack in the west, the top-ranking offi- 
cers of the German armed forces had to 
a man shown their disfavor for this 
daring concept. Despite this opposition 
Hitler had gone ahead and personally 
selected the general area for the initial 
penetration, although perhaps with con- 
siderable stimulation from Generalfeld- 
marschall Fritz Erich von Manstein. The 
lightning campaign through the Nether- 
lands, Belgium, and France had been 
the first great victory won by Hitler's 
intuition and the Fuehrerprinzip over 
the German General Staff, establishing 
a trend which had led almost inevitably 
to the virtual dictatorship in military 
Lommand exercised by the Fuehrer in 
1 944. Also, the contempt for Allied gen- 
eralship which Hitler continually ex- 



pressed can be regarded as more than 
bombast. He would be prone to believe 
that the Western Allies had learned 
nothing from the experience of 1940, 
that the conservative military tradition 
which had deemed the Ardennes as 
impossible for armor was still in the 
saddle, and that what German arms had 
accomplished in 1940 might be their 
portion a second time. Two of the fac- 
tors which had entered into the plans 
for the 1940 offensive still obtained: a 
very thin enemy line and the need for 
protecting the Ruhr. The German 
attack could no longer be supported by 
an air force which outweighed the op- 
position, but this would be true wher- 
ever the attack was delivered. Weather 
had favored movement through the 
Ardennes defiles in the spring of 1940. 
This could hardly be expected in the 
month of November, but there is no 
indication that Hitler gave any thought 
to the relation of weather and terrain 
as this might affect ground operations 
in the Ardennes. He tended to look at 
the sky rather than the ground, as the 
Luftwaffe deteriorated, and bad weath- 
er—bad flying weather— was his desire. 
In sum. Hitler's selection of the Arden- 
nes may have been motivated in large 
part by the hope that the clock could 
be turned back to the glorious days of 
1940.12 

" General Heinz Guderian, Panzer Leader (New 
York: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1952, app. 3. 



CHAPTER II 



Planning the Counteroffensive 



Details of the Plan 

About 25 September Jodl was ordered 
to begin a detailed analysis of the Hit- 
lerian concept, the only function now 
left to the great General Staff. Some 
latitude remained to the individual staff 
officers and those favored few in the high 
echelon of command who retained ac- 
cess to the Fuehrer in kneading and 
shaping the very general outline handed 
down by Hitler into an operations plan. 
The outline as it now had taken shape 
contained these major points: (a) the 
attack should be launched sometime 
between 20 and 30 November; (b) it 
should be made through the Ardennes 
in the Monschau-Echternach sector; (c) 
the initial object would be the seizure 
of bridgeheads over the Meuse River 
between Liege and Namur; (d) there- 
after, Antwerp would be the objective;^ 
(e) a battle to annihilate the British 

' The precise reasons for the selection of 
Antwerp as the German objective are none too 
clear. The city represented the main supply base 
for British operations and it might be expected 
that the British public would react adversely to 
an Allied command responsible for the loss of an 
area so close to England which could be em- 
ployed for V-2 attacks at short range. Later, at 
Nuremberg Rundstedt would say that the Meuse 
bridgeheads and Liege actually were the ultimate 
objectives. The Fifth Panzer Army commander, 
General der Panzertruppen Hasso-Eccard von 
ManteulTel, gives his story in Seymour Freiden 
and William Richardson, eds., The Fatal De- 
cisions (New York: William Sloane Associates, 
Inc., 1956), Part 6. 



and Canadians would ultimately be 
fought north of the line Antwerp-Liege- 
Bastogne; (f) a minimum of thirty divi- 
sions would be available, ten of which 
would be armored; (g) support would 
be given by an unprecedented concentra- 
tion of artillery and rocket projector 
units; (h) operational control would be 
vested in four armies— two panzer armies 
abreast in the lead, two armies com- 
posed largely of infantry divisions to 
cover the flanks; (i) the Luftwaffe would 
be prepared to support the operation; 
(j) all planning would aim at securing 
tactical surprise and speed; (k) secrecy 
would be maintained at all costs and 
only a very limited number of individ- 
uals wou ld be made privy to the plan. 
{Map 1)\ 

1 heoretically, the chief of OKW, 
Keitel, should have been the central 
figure as preparations for the Ardennes 
counteroffensive unrolled. Actually he 
was charged with estimating the fuel 
and ammunition required.^ Jodl and the 
Armed Forces Operations Staff would 
mastermind the great attack. Rundstedt, 
Commander in Chief West, was not 
informed of the impending operation; 
indeed at this stage he did not even 
know that Hitler envisaged a counter- 
offensive in the west. So much for the 

''The remaining records of the German High 
Command show clearly that Keitel no longer had 
a hand in the actual direction of the war or in 
strategic planning. 



20 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



"Rundstedt Offensive," as this appella- 
tion was broadcast to the world by the 
Allies in December 1944. 

The mechanics of German staff work 
seem to have deteriorated little during 
the years of war despite the disfavor 
into which the General Staff, as an insti- 
tution, had fallen. Methodically, accord- 
ing to doctrine as old as Moltke the 
Elder, the young officers with Jodl 
studied variants to the scheme proposed 
by Hitler. Ultimately the staff settled 
on five possible courses of action: 

Operation Holland: a single-thrust at- 
tack to be launched from the Venlo area, 
with Antwerp as the objective. 

Operation Liege-Aachen: a two-pronged 
attack with the main effort driving from 
northern Luxembourg in a northwesterly 
direction, subsequently turning due north 
to meet the secondary attack which would 
be launched from the sector northwest of 
Aachen. 

Operation Luxembourg: a two-pronged 
attack launched simultaneously from cen- 
tral Luxembourg and Metz to seize Longwy. 

Operation Lorraine: also a double en- 
velopment, to be launched from Metz and 
Baccarat and to converge on Nancy. 

Operation Alsace: an envelopment to be 
executed in two thrusts, one originating 
east of Epinal and the other east of Mont- 
beliard, the juncture to be made in the 
Vesoul area. 

Of these five possibilities the plan- 
ning staff recommended the first two. 
Operation Holland was recognized as 
risky but, at the same time, the 
most promising strategically. Operation 
Liege-Aachen was deemed a good ex- 
ercise of the forward double envelop- 
ment and the possible payoff very large 
—the destruction of the enemy in the 
Aachen salient. In conversation with 
Jodl on 9 October, Hitler plumped for 
a two-pronged envelopment, setting in 



chain what would become a bitter con- 
troversy between his views and those of 
his major field commanders. When, two 
days later, Jodl produced a draft plan 
and operation overlay for Hitler's in- 
spection, the favored solution seems to 
have been contained in Operation Liege- 
Aachen with emphasis on a main effort 
to be made through the Ardennes and 
Eifel. As Schramm soberly puts it: "Sys- 
tematic re-examination confirmed that 
the area selected by the Fuehrer actually 
was the most promising on the whole 
Western Front." 

The scoffer may feel that such a solu- 
tion by junior officers was predestined. 
And, although the planning staffs in 
1940 had been able to introduce radical 
changes into the Hitler scheme of ma- 
neuver, perhaps such independent staff 
operation no longer was possible, or at 
least politic. There was no high-placed 
and unbiased professional testimony, 
however, to negate this decision by the 
colonels and lieutenant colonels who 
vetted the Hitler concept. Rundstedt, 
despite a deep-burning personal desire 
to detach his name from the final offen- 
sive and a professional contempt for the 
failure to recognize the paucity of means 
for the mission assigned him, would 
later say of the Ardennes Campaign and 
Hitler's share in its formulation: "The 
operational idea as such can almost be 
railed a stroke of genius." 

Hitler now accepted both of the rec- 
ommended solutions and ordered prep- 
aration of a new draft synthesizing the 
two. This concept of a double envelop- 
ment with the two prongs of the attack 
originating far apart and casting a wide 
net as they moved to a meeting would 
be known to the German staffs as the 
"Grand Slam" (the American command- 



PLANNING THE COUNTEROFFENSIVE 



21 



ers were not the only military bridge 
players) or the "Big Solution." Although 
Jodl and the WFSt often were charged 
by subordinate headquarters as having 
no realization of the difficulties under 
which the outnumbered German troops 
were battling, here appears to be one 
case in which the planning staff was 
thoroughly aware that the means were 
not and could not be adequate to the 
grandiose object of the Big Solution. 
Without the support of the field com- 
manders, as yet not involved in the 
planning, Jodl dared not, or at least pre- 
ferred not, to gainsay the Fuehrer's pro- 
posal. The argument at this point was 
on the location of the southern boundary 
of the main attack force. Hitler held 
for the line Wasserbillig, Arlon, and 
the north bank of the Semois River. The 
staff proposal was more modest in the 
area assigned the attack, the southern 
boundary originating near Diekirch, 
passing north of Martelange to Neuf cha- 
teau, thence turning northwest to Givet. 

Ten days after the initial staff pre- 
sentation Jodl was back to hand Hitler 
the revised outline plan or Aufmarschan- 
weisung. The Aufmarschanweisung, in 
German practice, was a directive con- 
taining the basic parts of the plan, the 
guiding principles to be followed in 
developing and implementing the plan, 
and general instructions as to procedure. 
From this, more detailed planning nor- 
mally was undertaken by the headquar- 
ters assigned to carry out the operation. 
Even before Hitler gave the final nod, 
the chiefs of staff of the two major field 
commands concerned (as yet unaware 
that a counteroffensive was in the offing) 
were called to the East Prussian head- 
quarters. General der Kavellerie Sieg- 
fried Westphal, from OB West, and 



General der Infanterie Hans Krebs, 
chief of Model's Army Group B staff, 
reported at the Wolf's Lair on the 
morning of 22 October.^ They hardly 
could have expected a pleasant recep- 
tion: the embattled city of Aachen had 
fallen to the Americans, and they had 
the unpleasant task of pressing OKW 
for a favorable answer to Rundstedt's 
repeated— and unanswered— requests for 
more divisions to prevent an Allied 
breakthrough to the Ruhr. 

Scarcely had salutes been exchanged 
when the two generals were asked to 
sign a pledge binding them to secrecy 
in regard to a mysterious operation 
Wacht am Rhein (Watch on the Rhine). 
If this plan should leak out they would 
be shot! Westphal and Krebs were in 
the toils of a security system as care- 
fully conceived and executed as the com- 
bined vigilance of the armed forces and 
the Gestapo could make it. Wacht am 
Rhein was a cover name, chosen to give 
the impression that the plan was for a 
defense at the Rhine. An alternate and 
more commonly used formula, the 
Abwehrschlacht im Westen (Defensive 
Battle in the West) had the same intent 
and the added advantage that it had 
been used to describe the battles 
around Aachen. 

Probably the two generals were greatly 
heartened— and surprised— when they 
were handed a long list of troops sched- 
uled to arrive on the Western Front at 
the end of November and in early 
December. At noon, for the first time, 
they reported to Hitler who was holding 



"The German term Oberbejehlshaber West, 
which may mean either the Commander in Chief 
West or his headquarters, has been rendered as 
OB WEST when it refers to the headquarters and 
as C-in-C West when it refers to the person. 



22 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



his daily conference. When the confer- 
ence was finished, Westphal and Krebs 
found themselves in a second and much 
smaller meeting, with Hitler himself 
conducting the briefing on an astound- 
ing plan for a counteroftensive to be 
undertaken in the Army Group B area. 

This attack, said Hitler, was designed 
to surround and destroy the British and 
American forces north of the line Bas- 
togne-Brussels-Antwerp. It would be 
carried out in two phases: the first phase 
to close the attacking force along the 
Meuse River and seize bridgeheads; the 
second phase to culminate in the cap- 
ture of Antwerp. (Neither here nor 
later is there evidence of any detailed 
planning as to what should be done once 
Antwerp fell.) Army Group B would 
have three armies for the attack: the 
Fifth and Sixth Panzer Armies would 
be in the van; the Seventh Army would 
be echeloned to the rear so as to cover 
the exposed southern flank of the attack 
wedge. Two target dates were fixed, 20 
November for the end of all prepara- 
tions, 25 November for the beginning 
of the offensive. The latter date had 
been selected by Dr. Schuster and his 
meteorologists in answer to the Fuehrer's 
demand for a period in which at least 
ten days of continuous bad weather and 
poor visibility might be expected. Such 
a stretch of poor flying weather would 
ground the superior Allied air forces. 
Furthermore, the target date coincided 
with the new moon, a help in reducing 
the effectiveness of Allied night raids. 

Westphal and Krebs then heard that 
they could count on 18 infantry and 12 
armored or mechanized divisions "for 
planning purposes." This windfall of 
reinforcements included 13 infantry 
divisions, 2 parachute divisions, and 6 



panzer-type divisions from the OKW 
strategic reserve. But 3 infantry and 6 
panzer divisions would have to be with- 
drawn by OB WEST from the already 
weakened Western Front and re-formed 
before taking their place in the coming 
offensive. (This was hardly pleasant 
news since OB WEST possessed only 9 
panzer divisions in its entire theater of 
operations.) Hitler then recapitulated 
the additional reinforcements which had 
been listed in the morning: 5 motorized 
antiaircraft (flak) regiments from the 
Luftwaffe, 12 Folks artillery corps, 10 
rocket projector (Werfer) brigades, plus 
a host of army troops. 

It may be that Hitler sensed some 
skepticism on the part of the two visi- 
tors, and it is probable that he remem- 
bered past promises of reinforcements 
which had never arrived; whatever the 
reason, he added his personal assurance 
that these units would be forthcoming. 
Further, he gave his pledge that the 
Luftwaffe would support the operation 
with up to fifteen hundred fighters, of 
which a hundred would be the new jet 
planes, far superior to anything the 
Allies could put in the air. As a clincher, 
Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel 
then gave his word as an officer that 
17,000 cubic meters (4,250,000 gallons) 
of motor fuel would be available for the 
attack, plus a special fifty-trainload am- 
munition reserve, all this in excess of 
current consumption. The two silent 
generals were dismissed with the injunc- 
tion that OB WEST must hold its front, 
even at the cost of giving ground, with- 
out committing a single one of the for- 
mations earmarked for Wacht am Rhein, 
and told that OB WEST should submit 
a draft plan for the first phase of the 
attack forthwith. 



PLANNING THE COUNTEROFFENSIVE 



23 



Back at the Ziegenberg headquarters 
of OB WEST, Westphal recited the in- 
structions he had received, then hastened 
on to give Rundstedt his own appraisal 
of the plan and the "politics" involved. 
The plan to seize Antwerp was far too 
ambitious for the forces available; the 
time for preparation was far too short. 
Since it was apparent that the whole 
scheme was inspired by Hitler, OB 
WEST probably would have no voice in 
determining plans or in directing the 
operation unless it could team up with 
Jodl who, in Westphal's opinion, was 




Field Marshal von Rundstedt 

wary of the Big Solution proposed by 
Hitler. 

Rundstedt had to act quickly if OB 



WEST was to make its views known. 
With the penalty for a security failure 
so immediate, only the operations officer, 
Generalleutnant Bodo Zimmermann, the 
chief of Supply and Administration, 
Generalleutnant Friedrich John, and one 
aide were let in on the secret. The next 
step was to call a conference for 27 
October (it now was late on the 24th) 
at the Army Group B headquarters near 
Krefeld. In the three nights and two days 
remaining, the little group at OB WEST 
would prepare an operations plan; to 
this the code name Martin was assigned. 

The part played by Rundstedt dur- 
ing the prelude to the Ardennes Cam- 
paign and in its denoument needs some 
explanation. An aloof, nonpolitical of- 
ficer of the old Prussian school, Rund- 
stedt by reason of age and prestige stood 
at the apex of the German officer caste 
system. He had survived Hitler's dis- 
favor, incurred during his first tour as 
Commander in Chief West, then had 
been brought back from semiretirement 
to take over his old post at a time when 
the German armies in the west were 
everywhere in retreat. Rundstedt's posi- 
tion in the autumn of 1944 was exceed- 
ingly difficult. He was treated correctly 
by Hitler, Keitel, Jodl, and the others in 
the OKW, but was regarded as too old 
and too lukewarm toward National 
Socialism to merit anything more than 
the outer forms of respect. Advice from 
Rundstedt was consistently pigeonholed 
by Jodl or brushed aside by Hitler, ex- 
cept in those rare cases when Jodl found 
it expedient to quote Rundstedt, the 
field commander, in support of a posi- 
tion being developed by the WFSt. 

The relations between Rundstedt and 
his chief subordinate, Model, comman- 
der of Army Group B, were correct but 



24 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



not cordial. After the suicide of Kluge, 
both the supreme ground command in 
the west, OB WEST, and that of Army 
Group B had been united on Model's 
shoulders. Rundstedt's return to the 
Western Front ostensibly was ordered to 
relieve this untenable command situa- 
tion. However, Hitler and his advisers 
intended to keep the old field marshal 
officially in leading strings. Model was 
well aware of the limitations imposed on 
Rundstedt. He himself was an ardent 
Nazi, clever, ambitious, and much 
younger than Rundstedt. Thus far Mo- 
del had retained a high place in the 
Fuehrer's notoriously fickle favor. The 
upshot seems to have been a kind of 
truce between Rundstedt and Model in 
which the younger field marshal de- 
ferred to the elder, but in which the OB 
WEST commander kept his place by 
handling two-way communications be- 
tween his subordinate headquarters. 
Army Group B, and his superior head- 
quarters, OKW, without overly much 
interference or comment. Under such 
strained circumstances OB WEST would 
more and more assume the properties of 
a rubber stamp, this becoming most ap- 
parent during the actual operations in 
the Ardennes.* 

Whether or not Rundstedt's views 
would get an airing before Hitler, the 
same sense of duty which compelled the 
aging field marshal to remain in his 
anomalous post also forced him to an 
official expression of his military opin- 

* The relations between Rundstedt and Model 
are described by one o£ the latter's staff officers, 
Thuisko von Metzch, in an unpublished report 
made for the Office of the Chief of Military 
History in 1952. Charles V. P. von Luttichau, 
Report on the Interview With Mr. Thuisko von 
Metzsch [14-19 March 1952] on Operations of 
Army Group B and Its Role in the German 
Ardennes Offensive, 1944. Copy in OCMH. 




Field Marshal Model 



ion. Sometime around 21 September 
Rundstedt had advised OKW that the 
ultimate objective for all strategy in the 
west should be a counteroffensive to in- 
flict a decisive defeat on the enemy. The 
hope of such a strategy seems to have 
evaporated in the smoke and dust of the 
Aachen battle; by mid-October Rund- 
stedt had a single thought, simply to hold 
on. It may be that momentarily Rund- 
stedt was fired by the plans which his 
chief of staff brought back from the 
Wolf's Lair, but the field marshal was 
too old and too experienced to expect 
miracles. Although Rundstedt had rec- 
ognized the merit of Hitler's opera- 
tional plan, from the very first he 



PLANNING THE COUNTEROFFENSIVE 



25 



realized, as he later testified, that "all, 
absolutely all conditions for the possible 
success of such an offensive were lack- 
ing." 8 

The weaknesses of the plan were di- 
agnosed by Rundstedt and Westphal as 
follows: sufficient force was not available 
to attain the distant goal of Antwerp; the 
German situation on the Western Front 
was so precarious that it was question- 
able whether the divisions slated for the 
offensive could be kept out of the moil 
of battle prior to D-day; the Allies might 
launch an offensive of their own, "spoil- 
ing" the German attack; the northern 
and southern flanks of the offensive 
would be dangerously open, the ex- 
posure increasing with every mile gained 
in the advance; finally, there was a better 
than average chance that all the attack 
could produce would be a salient or 
bulge of the Great War variety, consum- 
ing too many German divisions in what 
would be ultimately only a holding op- 
eration. The solution, as seen by Rund- 
stedt and Westphal, was to produce an 
operations order which would be less 
ambitious as to the terrain to be con- 
quered and which would aim at maxi- 
mum destruction of Allied forces with 
minimum risk. 

The OB WEST appraisal of Allied 
strength, as set forth in Martin, ac- 
corded the Allies a two to one superior- 
ity. Although the front was relatively 
quiet, the main Allied effort was recog- 
nized as being directed against the flanks 
of the German line (the Fifteenth Army 
in the north and the Nineteenth Army 
in the south) . But the German long- 



' Rundstedt Testimony, Trial of the Major War 
Criminals Before the International Military Tri- 
bunal (Nuremberg, 12 August 1946) vol. XXXI, 
p. 29. 



range estimate of Allied intentions pre- 
dicted that the Allies first would attempt 
to clear the Schelde estuary, as a pre- 
liminary to opening the port of Antwerp, 
and follow with a shift to the Venlo- 
Aachen sector as a base for operations 
against the Ruhr. Recognizing, there- 
fore, that the Allied north wing with its 
four armies was heavily weighted. Plan 
Martin emphasized protection of the 
north flank of the attack, adding extra 
divisions for this purpose and feeding in 
a vital secondary attack by six divisions 
debouching from the salient south of 
Roermond. 

The axis of the advance, as pro- 
posed in Martin, would be Butgenbach- 
Trois Ponts-Werbomont-Ourthe River- 
a Meuse crossing north of the line Huy- 
Antwerp. The Fifth and Sixth Panzer 
Armies, right and left, would attack on 
a narrow front, the main strength of the 
two armies driving between Simmerath 
and Bleialf on a front of only twenty-five 
miles. This was the salient feature of the 
Rundstedt plan: a heavy concentration 
for breakthrough on a narrow front. The 
area selected for the thrust of this sharp, 
narrow wedge offered the best tank go- 
ing to be found; no rivers need be 
crossed by the main attack until the 
Ourthe was reached. Flank cover would 
be given by the advance of the Fifteenth 
Army in the north and the Seventh 
Army in the south. The secondary attack 
from the Roermond sector, heavy with 
armor, would effect a juncture with the 
main advance near Liege. 

Plan Martin, then, exemplified Rund- 
stedt's desire to design and cut a coat 
matching the amount of cloth he ex- 
pected to have. He wanted immediate 
results, to be won by a quick break- 
through on a narrow front, with the 



26 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



entire field of battle reduced consider- 
ably in size from the maneuver area 
envisaged in the original Hitler direc- 
tive. The simultaneous secondary thrust 
from the Roermond salient was regarded 
by Rundstedt as essential to the OB 
WEST plan. 

At Fichtenhain near Krefeld, in a 
group of modern buildings which had 
been erected as a nursing home for alco- 
holics, Field Marshal Model and a small 
fragment of his army group staff also 
busied themselves with an answer to the 
Hitler directive. Despite his avowed 
loyalty to the party and Fuehrer, Model's 
reaction to Krebs' report had been caus- 
tic in the extreme: "This plan hasn't got 
a damned leg to stand on." " Antwerp, 
in Model's opinion, was beyond reach 
without more forces than were available. 

As Rundstedt had done. Model pro- 
ceeded to whittle away at the grandiose 
plan which had come from the Wolf's 
Lair. Even more than OB WEST, Model 
and his staff feared the Allied threat in 
the Aachen sector. Sensitive to this and 
anxious to concentrate as much of the 
limited means as possible in the main 
punch. Model at once rejected the idea 
of a two-pronged attack. The Army 
Group B plan, called Herbstnehel (au- 
tumn fog), assigned the armored forma- 
tions which Rundstedt intended to 
employ in the secondary thrust from 
Roermond to a general reserve in the 
Diiren area; from there this armor could 
be thrown in as the second wave of the 
main drive, or, if need be, rushed to 
bolster the defenses in the Aachen sector. 

The Herbstnehel plan called for a 
single powerful thrust on a front about 
forty miles wide, the breakthrough to be 



"Inteiv, Luttichau with Metzsch, 14-19 Mar 52. 



achieved between the Hiirtgen Forest 
and Liitzkampen with the Fifth and 
Sixth Panzer Armies leading the attack. 
On the left wing the Seventh Army 
would not make an immediate advance 
as in the OB WEST maneuver, but 
would follow in the track of the Sixth 
Panzer Army as a second wave. In con- 
trast to the wedge formation advocated 
by OB WEST for the main thrust, in 
which forces echeloned to the rear would 
develop a kind of snowplow effect roll- 
ing back the enemy on the flanks, the 
Army Group B maneuver represented a 
mechanized and motorized version of the 
Napoleonic carre in which the main dis- 
position for the rupture of the enemy 
position was a square with two forma- 
tions abreast in the lead and two 
formations following on the same axis. 
The weight accorded the main thrust by 
the two panzer armies was about the 
same in both plans; both would employ 
seven armored divisions, but Model pro- 
vided thirteen infantry divisions as com- 
pared with Rundstedt's ten. 

The two plans finally were presented 
on 27 October in a joint conference at 
Fichtenhain. On this occasion the gen- 
erals nominated to command the par- 
ticipating armies (General der Pan- 
zertruppen Hasso-Eccard von Man- 
teuffel, Generaloberst der Waffen-SS 
Josef "Sepp" Dietrich, and General der 
Panzertruppen Erich Brandenberger) 
joined the OB WEST and Army Group 
B commanders and their chiefs of staff. 
In an initial briefing by Rundstedt, the 
problems of cover and deception were 
enumerated with solutions about the 
same as those employed in the final op- 
eration. Cover would be based on the 
idea, Defensive Battle in the West. 
Deception would aim at attracting the 



PLANNING THE COUNTEROFFENSIVE 



27 



attention of the enemy to the sector 
northwest of Cologne where the assem- 
bly of troops and supplies would be made 
openly and in daylight, the whole ruse 
abetted by an increase in radio traffic. 

After a meeting that lasted several 
hours, Model agreed to submit a new 
army group plan incorporating most of 
OB WEST'S Martin study. Actually 
Model and Rundstedt found themselves 
in accord on only one point, that the 
Hitler scheme for seizing Antwerp was 
too ambitious and that there was no pur- 
pose to plans carrying beyond the Meuse 
River. Quite independently, or so it 
would appear, the two headquarters had 
arrived at the Small Solution, or the en- 
velopment of the enemy east of the 
Meuse River. The fact that Model was 
violently opposed to the Fuehrer's solu- 
tion and thus could expect no support 
from OKW may have made him more 
amenable to Rundstedt 's exercise of the 
command decision. When the revised 
Model plan arrived at OB WEST head- 
quarters on 28 October, it followed the 
general outline of the Martin plan. All 
of this work was preparatory to the re- 
ceipt of further instructions promised by 
Jodl. These arrived at OB WEST head- 
quarters by special courier during the 
night of 2 November. 

The Big Solution 

Jodl's preliminary plan had gone to 
Hitler on 2 1 October. The directive now 
handed the C-in-C West had been signed 
and dispatched from the Wolf's Lair on 
1 November. Why this delay in issuing 
the directive? Jodl and Hitler met sev- 
eral times a day. There was no need to 
wait for information coming from lower 



headquarters. Time, it was obvious to 
all, was running out. 

There is only one explanation for this 
surprising delay and it is supported by 
what is known of the working relation- 
ship between the Fuehrer and the chief 
of his planning staff. Probably one can- 
not say that the whole of this extended 
period was devoted to argument; that 
would have been inadmissible to Hitler 
and not in keeping with Jodl's character. 
But it is known that the two men were 
in fundamental disagreement on the ob- 
jective of the planned counteroffensive. 
Jodl's technique would have been to 
postpone the final drafting and dispatch 
of the directive while he and Buttlar- 
Brandenfels tried to "sell" Hitler, push- 
ing a little at a time but withdrawing 
when storm warnings appeared. 

This conflict of ideas, for it hardly can 
be called a personal controversy, saw the 
Small Solution opposed to the Big Solu- 
tion, or Grand Slam. The point of disa- 
greement had risen when Hitler com- 
bined into one the two separate plans 
favored by the WFSt: the attack from 
Venlo to seize Antwerp, and the double 
envelopment of Liege by pincers from 
northern Luxembourg and from the 
Aachen area. Jodl and his aides had in- 
tended that the forces available would be 
employed in one of the favored plans and 
one only. A sweeping enlargement on the 
original WFSt concept, such as Hitler 
demanded, would require perhaps twice 
as many new divisions on the Western 
Front as the twenty-one that were to be 
provided from the OKW strategic re- 
serve. 

Jodl seems to have had no hesitation 
about setting the two alternatives before 
Hitler. First, he could go ahead with the 
Big Solution, aiming at the seizure of 



28 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



Antwerp and the encirclement and de- 
struction of the Allied forces north of the 
line Bastogne-Brussels-Antwerp. This 
would require a drastic revision of Ger- 
man strategy on all fronts. Combat 
divisions would have to be stripped from 
the Eastern Front in particular and 
given to OB WEST. Replacements and 
supplies for other fronts than the west 
would have to be reduced to a mere 
trickle. Obviously ground would have to 
be surrendered elsewhere if the great 
attack in the west were to be successful; 
therefore local commanders must be al- 
lowed to make their own decisions as to 
retrograde movement. (Surely Hitler 
must have gagged on this item.) This 
was not all. Jodl and Buttlar-Brandenfels 
recommended extreme measures to 
wring the extra divisions which the Big 
Solution required out of the German 
people. The Third Reich would have to 
be turned into a fortress under martial 
law, with total mobilization of men, 
women, and children— a step which was 
not taken in fact until the spring of 1945. 

If Hitler would not adopt the extreme 
measures needed to implement the Big 
Solution with an adequate number of 
new divisions, then he should accept the 
alternate or Small Solution. In this the 
object would be the seizure of Liege and 
the envelopment of those enemy forces 
east of the Meuse in the sector roughly 
demarcated by Givet (on the Meuse) in 
the south, and Sittard (twenty miles 
northeast of Aachen) in the north. 

Hitler ridiculed the Small Solution as 
nothing but a half measure which could 
produce no real success. At the same time 
he was unwilling to adopt the stern meas- 
ures necessary to make the Big Solution 
a success. Despite all protestations that 
the final battle would be won or lost in 



the west, the Fuehrer could not bring 
himself to take troops from the Eastern 
Front and stake everything on a quick 
decision in the west. Stubbornly, Hitler 
adhered to Antwerp as the goal of the 
attack and the proposition that it could 
be achieved with only those thirty divi- 
sions or so which could be raised by 
OKW or saved out of the ruck by OB 
WEST. 

By the end of October it must have 
been apparent to Jodl that Hitler could 
not be moved, nor could the letter 
of instruction to the C-in-C West be 
longer delayed. The Fuehrer instruc- 
tions signed on 1 November were sent 
to Rundstedt with a brief covering letter 
dictated by Jodl. Two sentences from 
Jodl warned Rundstedt that Hitler had 
plumped irrevocably for the Big Solu- 
tion: "The venture for the far-flung 
objective [Antwerp] is unalterable al- 
though, from a strictly technical stand- 
point, it appears to be disproportionate 
to our available forces. In our present 
situation, however, we must not shrink 
from staking everything on one card." ^ 

Rundstedt's answer, sent to Jodl on 3 
November, followed the German mili- 
tary tradition by which a commander 
was entitled to state his objection to 
orders for the record. The forces avail- 
able for Wacht am Rhein, he wrote, 
were "extremely weak in comparison to 
the enemy and the zone of action"; then 
he voiced his "grave doubts whether it 
would be possible to hold the ground 
won, unless the enemy is completely de- 
stroyed." ^ But these words for the record 
ended Rundstedt's efforts for a more 



' Ltr, Jodl to Westphal, 1 . Nov 44, OB WEST, 
KTB Anlage 50, vol. I, pp. 30-31. 

"Ltr, Rundstedt to Jodl, 3 Nov 44, OB WEST, 
KTB Anlage 50, vol. I, pp. 47-50. 



PLANNING THE COUNTEROFFENSIVE 



29 



reasonable plan; he refused to appeal to 
Hitler in person, as Westphal urged, on 
the ground that it was futile to expect a 
favorable hearing from the Fuehrer. 

A Double Envelopment? 

Closely linked with the Big Solution 
was the question of the form in which 
the attack should be delivered. The Hit- 
ler concept called for a single thrust on 
a wide front; this broad zone of action, 
so the argument ran, would make it dif- 
ficult for the enemy to concentrate his 
forces for a riposte. When the Allies 
commenced to react, and only then, a 
secondary attack would be launched in 
the north from the Venlo area by two 
army corps under Army Group H (Stu- 
dent) . Rundstedt, on the other hand, 
hoped to deny the enemy the ability to 
mass for a counterthrust by employing a 
double envelopment, the two prongs of 
the attack moving simultaneously from 
their jump-off positions. His reply, on 
3 November, to the OKW instructions 
was phrased most carefully, but despite 
the protestation that the points of dif- 
ference between the OKW and OB 
WEST plans were "unessential," Rund- 
stedt made clear his opinion that a con- 
centric maneuver was a must: 

It is a requisite that a powerful [sec- 
ondary] attack be launched from the area 
Susteren-Geilenkirchen simultaneously with 
the [main attack] of Sixth SS Panzer, Fifth 
Panzer and Seventh Armies; otherwise the 
destruction of the strong [Allied] forces 
already concentrated in the Sittard-Liege- 
Monschau triangle cannot be achieved.* 

Rundstedt then politely bowed in the 
direction of Hitler's scheme for the 
follow-up attack in Holland: "After 

' Ibid. 



successful execution [of this operation], 
strong forces will be free for deployment 
in one of two possible courses of action 
depending upon the situation; either in 
support of the attack of Army Group 
Student, or in a northward thrust via 
Maastricht." 

Although Model and Army Group B 
were not consulted in the preparation 
of this answer from Rundstedt to Jodl, 
the army group planners made haste to 
repudiate any plan for a simultaneous 
two-pronged attack. The force making 
up the northern arm in Rundstedt's 
scheme, the XII SS Corps, was too weak 
to carry through a simultaneous second- 
ary attack; nor would Model agree to 
further reduction of the main effort as 
a step in beefing up the northern thrust. 
The OB WEST chief of staff could do 
no more than note this disclaimer from 
the subordinate headquarters: "The 
simultaneous attack of the XII SS Corps 
is regarded as essential by Field Mar- 
shal von Rundstedt for the purpose of 
tying down [the enemy]. Considering 
the weakness of our forces, OKW is of 
the same opinion as you. We will have to 
await a decision." 

This came four days later in the 
Fuehrer's operations directive of lo 
November. Quite obviously Rundstedt's 
plea for the double envelopment had 
gone unheeded. Indeed, Hitler seems to 
have taken upon himself the task of bury- 
ing this idea, for the copy of the opera- 
tions directive prepared for his signature 
has a sentence inserted after the main 
text was typed: "In this sector [reference 
is being made to the Fifteenth Army 
which Hitler had assigned the mission 

^"Ibid. 

" Ltr, Westphal to Krebs, 6 Nov 44, OB WEST, 
KTB Anlage 50, vol. I, pp. 67-70. 



30 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



of holding attacks on the northern flank] 
the enemy must not be warned in ad- 
vance by secondary attacks." Tire 
simultaneous attack in the north thus 
was forbidden, its place to be taken by 
a series of holding attacks at some un- 
specified time in the dim and distant 
final phases of the projected operation. 

It appeared that Rundstedt's concen- 
tric attack had followed the Small Solu- 
tion into limbo. Certainly the OB WEST 
commander showed no readiness to de- 
fend his brain-child after the Hitler 
edict. Model, however, stood in a some- 
what more favored position vis-d-vis 
Jodl and Hitler as befitted a field mar- 
shal who was a rabidly loyal Nazi. Cir- 
cumstances now were in conspiracy to 
make Model the ball carrier for the OB 
WEST two-pronged attack, which he 
had disavowed, and for the Small Solu- 
tion, supposedly dead and buried. 

The plans and preparations prelim- 
inary to the Ardennes counteroffensive, 
it must be recognized, were not produced 
in a vacuum. The war in the west, some- 
what somnolent during October, had 
flared up again in November with the 
U.S. Third Army attack in the Metz 
sector and the combined offensive which 
the U.S. First and Ninth Armies had 
launched on 16 November with the in- 
tention of breaking through the German 
defenses east of Aachen and driving to 
the Rhine. The latter operation, desig- 
nated ■ by the Germans as the Third 
Battle of Aachen but known to Ameri- 



^OKW Operation Directive of lo Nov 44, OB 
WEST, KTIS Anlage 50, vol I, pp. 95-104. 

" On the attacks made by the U.S. First and 
Third Armies in November 1944 see Charles B. 
MacDonald, The Siegfried Line Campaign, 
UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 
(Washington, 1963) and Cole, The Lorraine Cam- 
paign. 



cans as the Battle of the Hiirtgen Forest, 
had been forecast with bitter foreboding 
in Model's headquarters. On the very 
first day of the new Aachen offensive, 
Model proposed a limited operation 
against the northern wing of the U.S. 
First Army using troops which had been 
earmarked for Wacht am Rhein. The 
OB WEST and Army Group B com- 
manders now were able to forget their 
personal differences and the animosities 
engendered between their respective 
staffs in pursuit of the common object: 
the acceptance by Hitler of some type of 
Small Solution in which the means were 
appropriate to the end. Rundstedt's for- 
warding letter, sent to Jodl on 18 No- 
vember while German losses in the 
Aachen battle were skyrocketing, backed 
Model to the hilt: "A surprise attack 
directed against the weakened enemy, 
after the conclusion of his unsuccessful 
breakthrough attempts in the greater 
Aachen area, offers the greatest chance of 
success." ^* To achieve this, wrote Rund- 
stedt, he as the OB WEST commander 
must be given an absolutely free hand in 
determining when the attack should be 
made. He wrote this at a time when it 
was evident to all that Hitler intended 
to keep every such decision in his own 
hands. Was the old Prussian field mar- 
shal encouraged to fly in the face of the 
Fuehrer directive because the young 
Nazi field marshal was at his side? Or 
did some sense of obligation to the uni- 
form he had worn for fifty-four years 
impel Rundstedt to make a last effort to 
give the German troops who would take 
part in the coming battle the best pos- 
sible chance of success? 



"Ltr, Rundstedt to Jodl, 18 Nov 44, OB WEST, 
KTB Anlage 50, vol. I, pp. 152-59. 



PLANNING THE COUNTEROFFENSIVE 



31 



By 20 November, divisions earmarked 
for Wacht am Rhein were in the line 
east of Aachen, and it appeared that still 
others would have to be used against 
Patton at Metz. On this date Model 
again enlisted Rundstedt's support to 
brace Hitler. This time Model specific- 
ally asked for an improvised limited 
double envelopment to destroy the four- 
teen Allied divisions in the Aachen sec- 
tor. Model argued that the attack he 
proposed would give as much tactical and 
psychological success as Wacht am Rhein, 
and that the destruction of such a large 
number of Allied divisions would be a 
necessary prerequisite for success in any 
future attack like Wacht am Rhein. Ap- 
parently the two Western Front com- 
manders were trying to drive a bargain 
with the Fuehrer: let us undertake a 
limited double envelopment in the 
Aachen area which will put us at the 
Meuse and eat up the enemy reserves; 
thereafter, we will be in a position to 
regroup, bring fresh forces (not now 
available) forward, and undertake the 
drive to Antwerp. But Hitler would not 
bargain. The answer, relayed by Jodl on 
22 November, was abrupt: "Preparations 
for an improvisation will not be made."^^ 

The workings of a dictatorship in a 
large and complex society are devious 
and hard to fathom. Hitler had degraded 
and executed German generals in the 
cruelest fashion while Rundstedt and the 
German Officer Corps stood passively by. 
A vocal inflection, a doubting word, had 
been enough to break famous field com- 
manders. The great General Staff was in 
complete disgrace, suffering constant rid- 
icule from Hitler in craven silence. In- 

'° Msg, JodI to Rundstedt, 22 Nov 44, OB WEST, 
KTB Aniage 50, vol. II, p. 12. (Quotation is from 
Hitler.) 



structions issued by Hitler for the con- 
duct of operations were in such detail 
that field commanders of the stature of 
Rundstedt and Model lacked the author- 
ity to move units as small as divisions. 
Whenever a field commander appeared 
at the Wolf's Lair he found the atmos- 
phere formal and chilling. The 
imputation of cowardice and treason 
was commonplace. Despite all this, the 
Fuehrer's personal dictatorship suffered 
the limitations and strictures which seem 
to be a part of all modern dictatorships. 
The armies under his command had 
suffered reverses and his personal pres- 
tige as war lord had declined. The 
generals who had been raised to power 
by the Nazi party as Nazis could not be 
broken without weakening the dictator- 
ship of the party. Finally, the number of 
generals with proven ability and public 
prestige, at this stage of the war, was 
relatively small. Even the Supreme War 
Lord would have to listen to men of 
prestige who had the courage to risk his 
disfavor. 

Jodl visited OB WEST headquarters 
on 26 November, only to find that Rund- 
stedt and Model were determined to 
cling to the Small Solution and the con- 
cept of concentric attack. Once again 
Hitler handed down his edict: "There 
will be absolutely no change in the 
present intentions." But Model was tena- 
cious. Taking advantage of a conference 
which Hitler called in Berlin on 2 De- 
cember, Model brought forward his 
heavy artillery: Sepp Dietrich, Hitler's 
old crony, and "Little" Manteuffel, the 
panzer general with the big reputation, 
both supporters of the Small Solution. 
Still Hitler refused to budge. One last 
attempt to win over the Fuehrer was 
made four days later when Rundstedt 



32 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



and Model submitted their final draft of 
the operations order for Wacht am 
Rhein. The accompanying map showed 
a second prong to the attack, this carried 
as in the first OB WEST plan by the 
X77 SS Corps. Again Hitler rejected the 
suggestion. 

In the final version of the operations 



order for the counteroffensive, approved 
by Hitler on 9 December, the scope and 
ultimate objective were exactly as they 
had been conceived by Hitler and pre- 
sented to the OB WEST and Army 
Group B chiefs of staff when these offi- 
cers were initiated in the plan on 22 
October. 



CHAPTER III 



Troops and Terrain 



The Order of Battle 

During the long-drawn debate over 
the extent of the counteroffensive, the 
objective, and the attack form to be em- 
ployed, the order of battle for Wacht am 
Rhein took form. This also led to dif- 
ferences of opinion and interpretation. 
How should the armies be aligned? What 
forces, missions, and zones should be 
assigned to each particular army? How 
many divisions, armored and infantry, 
would be available for use in the attack? 
The answers to these and like questions 
turned on the "Solution" adopted and 
the maneuver employed but will be set 
forth independently in an attempt to 
bring some order out of the confused 
interplay between Hitler, Jodl, Rund- 
stedt, and Model. 

When the representatives of OB 
WEST and Army Group B first heard 
of the Defensive Battle in the West, the 
Fuehrer had given Model, as the com- 
mander directly charged with the opera- 
tion, three armies: the Fifth and Sixth 
Panzer Armies and the Seventh Army. 
Subsequently Hitler added the Fifteenth 
Army for a special role, although it 
would appear that he did not intend to 
take the Fifteenth away from Army 
Group Student until after the battle was 
joined. At the time Westphal and Krebs 
rejoined their respective headquarters 
they were in possession of a rather gen- 



eral plan of maneuver and a list of 
divisions numbering 29. Hitler had per- 
sonally promised 30 divisions, of which 
12 were to be armored. From this point 
forward there would be a constant ques- 
tion posed in each draft plan: how many 
divisions and which divisions? By 1 
November, as planning progressed, the 
Hitler-Jodl estimate of the divisions 
which could be employed rose to 39, of 
which 13 would be armored. On the 
other hand the estimates fed into the 
successive OB WEST planning papers 
revolved between 29 and 31 divisions, 
with 12 armored divisions as a constant. 
It is the one extra panzer unit found in 
the OKW order of battle which fur- 
nishes the key to the conundrum as to 
the number of divisions. This unit, the 
2ist Panzer Division, belonged to Army 
Group G and was committed as a roving 
halfback, stiffening those parts of the 
line where attacks by the Third and 
Seventh U.S. Armies threatened to 
penetrate. Rundstedt knew that the 
2ist simply could not be stripped from 
the German south flank, already pre- 
cariously thin. His list of "available" 
divisions, therefore did not name those 
divisions already fully committed in 
sectors where the Allied threat loomed 
large. Be it noted, then, that the Hitler- 
Jodl listing of available divisions did not 
contain a single new formation (from 
the Eastern Front or Italy for example) 



34 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



but simply reckoned on withdrawing 
more divisions from other sectors of the 
Western Front and throwing them into 
the counteroffensive force. 

Fancy footwork in extending the 
length of the order of battle at OKW 
had a direct correlation with the align- 
ment of forces laid down in Hitler's 
letter of instructions on i November. In 
this the Sixth Panzer Army would be 
deployed on the right or north flank of 
the attack formation and would make 
the main effort. In the center would be 
the Fifth Panzer Army; on the left the 
Seventh Army. This disposition was 
"unalterable." The decision to let the 
Sixth Panzer Army gather the largest 
sheaf of laurel leaves, if any, was politi- 
cally inspired. Its commander, Sepp 
Dietrich, was high in the party and the 
panzer divisions assigned for the attack 
were SS divisions. Hitler's letter on i 
November calls Dietrich's command the 
Sixth SS Panzer Army, a Freudian slip 
for this army did not officially bear the 
title SS and would not for some time to 
come. The question at issue, however, 
was the location of the Sixth Panzer 
Army. Rundstedt wanted the main effort 
to be launched in the center and so 
wished to reverse the position of the two 
panzer armies in the final deployment. 
But this was only one of several points 
at which the deployment outlined by 
OB WEST in the Martin plan (as 
finally agreed to by Model) differed 
from that given by H itler's i November 



{See Map I.) 



letter of instructions. 

The Hitler-Jodl plan provided for an 
attack to be carried by the three armies 
of Army Group B advancing abreast. 
Plan Martin placed the Seventh Army 
to the left and rear of the two assault 
armies with its northern corps advancing 



behind the southern wing of the attack. 
Correspondingly, the Hitler-Jodl attack 
issued from an attack front sixty-five 
miles wide; the Martin attack took off 
from a forty-mile-wide base. In the first 
case the southern terminus of the pene- 
tration would be Grevenmacher; in 
Martin this terminus was set at Dasburg. 
Where the Hitler-Jodl attack moved 
straight through the Belgian Ardennes, 
that outlined in Martin skimmed the 
northern edge of the Ardennes. Of the 
thirteen panzer divisions listed by Hitler 
and Jodl, only four would be thrown into 
the first wave with six following in the 
second wave. The remaining three were 
to be held out for later employment in 
the holding attacks planned for Army 
Group Student. In Martin, contrariwise, 
Rundstedt put all of the panzer divisions 
he counted as available (twelve in num- 
ber) in the first attack wave. As to 
reserves, the Hitler-Jodl order of battle 
counted four divisions in this category 
but provided for their commitment as 
the third wave of the attack. Rundstedt, 
far more concerned than OKW with the 
potential weakness of the southern flank, 
would assemble the three divisions of his 
reserve along the southern boundary of 
the expanding salient. 

When, on lo November, Hitler signed 
the operation directive Wacht am Rhein, 
it became clear that Rundstedt's Plan 
Martin had been sunk without trace. 
This was nowhere more evident than in 
the order of battle. The revised Hitler- 
Jodl list gave an impressive total of 4 
armies (the Fifteenth had been added) , 
II army corps, and 38 divisions (15 
motorized and mechanized and 23 infan- 
try) , plus 9 Volks artillery corps and 7 
Volks Werfer brigades. By what sleight 
of hand had Jodl and the WFSt been able 



TROOPS AND TERRAIN 



35 



to raise divisions for the counteroffensive 
which the Western Front commanders 
could not see? The answer is found in a 
combination of self-mesmerism at Hit- 
ler's headquarters and a kind of double 
entry order of battle. The assignment of 
the Fifteenth Army, fighting in the 
Aachen battle, theoretically added six 
divisions to the attacking force. The 
Fifteenth Army, however, was not to be 
employed until the Allies had reacted in 
force to the German attack, and in any 
case could not be expected to launch a 
large-scale attack until the Allied front 
east of Aachen had been drastically de- 
nuded of troops. Furthermore, the actual 
count of divisions in the Fifteenth Army 
was deceptive. Two of the divisions (the 
4pih Infantry and 2^6th Volks Grena- 
dier) had been merged, the 4pth being 
deactivated. This merger had been re- 
ported to the WFSt but the 4pth con- 
tinued on the Hitler-JodI list. Another 
organization listed, the 8pth Infantry 
Division, amounted to the strength of a 
single rifle battalion. Both OB WEST 
and Army Group B had asked for its 
disbandment, but this request was re- 
fused at the Fuehrer level. 

An error of potentially greater import 
existed in the listing of three panzer-type 
divisions supposedly to come from other 
sectors of the Western Front. Rund- 
stedt's protest against the nomination of 
the 2ist Panzer Division as "available" 
has already been noted. Also tied down 
by the Allied attacks on the Army Group 
G front was the lyth SS Panzer Grena- 
dier Division. In addition, the loth SS 
Panzer Division, involved in the fight 
east of Aachen, had a very limited com- 
bat capability. But when Model at- 
tempted to replace this formation with 
a green parachute division, OKW turned 



down the relief because the second divi- 
sion was ticketed for Wacht am Rhein. 
In effect the felony was compounded in- 
sofar as the three panzer-type divisions 
were concerned. Not only was it very un- 
likely that they could be taken out of 
sectors where they already were hotly 
engaged, but each was so weakened by 
constant fighting— the 21st Panzer Divi- 
sion and lyth SS Panzer Grenadier Divi- 
sion had been in line without a break 
since the Allied invasion of Normandy— 
that the two together no longer had the 
combat value of a single full division. 

The chain of events leading to the 
issuance of the questionable Hitler-Jodl 
order of battle was vicious in its work- 
ing—but the sequence was not ended. 
Hitler had determined on a military so- 
lution in which the means were not ade- 
quate to the end desired. His comman- 
ders at first had attempted to bring the 
objective into some proper relation to 
the available means. As a retort to these 
efforts, Jodl and the WFSt had sup- 
ported the Fuehrer scheme by an inflated 
listing of additional available divisions. 
The higher field commanders then 
bowed to the inevitable, although they 
personally were aware that the troop list 
attached to the final operation directive 
of 10 November was probably phony, or 
at least highly suspect. The troop list 
thereafter would be duplicated in army 
group, army, corps, and division orders 
and plans. Commanders and staffs in 
lower echelons could have little or no 
knowledge of the questionable basis of 
the troop list. Each time the list was re- 
produced it became more of a solid fact. 
When a corps commander was informed 
that he would be given one of the divi- 
sions whose availability originally had 
been questioned by Rundstedt or Model, 



36 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



he accepted this as a fact and made his 
plans accordingly. This was true at the 
army level— and eventually even at the 
headquarters of Army Group B. Con- 
stant repetition would turn a hypothesis, 
mendacious by origin, into a military 
"fact." There is a lesson here for those 
who may be called upon to plan large- 
scale military operations in the future. 

The Allies Return to the Attack 

Rundstedt's immediate reaction to the 
outline Fuehrer plan brought back to the 
OB WEST headquarters by his chief of 
staff on 24 October had been a caveat: 
the entire project for a German counter- 
offensive would have to be abandoned if 
the Western Allies launched any large- 
scale attack. Rundstedt was not simply 
being cagey. He was worried by the gen- 
eral quiet which had fallen over the 
Western Front following the American 
penetration of the West Wall outworks 
at Aachen. He anticipated that the Allies 
would make new attacks in the Aachen 
and Metz sectors as soon as their divi- 
sions were refitted and resupplied. The 
C-in-C West especially feared a thrust 
from the Aachen salient to the Ruhr and 
had so advised Hitler, asking as was his 
wont for reserves. Rundstedt's request 
for nine fresh divisions lay unanswered 
in the files of OKW until Westphal 
finally brought the news that OB WEST 
would not be given the nine divisions 
requested but instead would have to take 
nine divisions out of the line in the west 
and prepare them for use in the great 
counteroffensive. To make matters very 
much worse, OB WEST would lose two- 
thirds of its armored and mechanized 
troops during the rehabilitation period. 

After the meeting with Model at 



Fichtenhain, Rundstedt once again asked 
for additional divisions to meet the im- 
pending Allied attack and repeated the 
warning that an Allied offensive would 
cancel the German plans. This time (3 
November) he specified the areas where 
the attack would be made: it would be a 
double thrust, one arm advancing from 
the Aachen front in the direction of 
Cologne, the other striking from the 
Metz sector toward Saarbriicken. Hit- 
ler's reply, telegraphed two days later, 
was unsympathetic. Rundstedt must hold 
with those divisions he had in the line. 
Divisions listed for Wacht am Rhein 
could be committed only if they became 
involved in a fight while assembling in 
their future attack positions, although an 
exception could be made in the event 
of Allied airborne landings. Otherwise 
the commitment of any Wacht am Rhein 
formation must have the express permis- 
sion of the Fuehrer. 

Rundstedt's prediction of things to 
come was made good when the U.S. 
Third Army opened a two-corps attack 
on 8 November. Within twenty-four 
hours Hitler was in touch with OB 
WEST, reminding Rundstedt that he 
must keep his hands off the Wacht am 
Rhein divisions even if this meant giving 
ground all along the line. As a reassuring 
note OKW expressed the hope that the 
Allied attack would burn up divisions 
which might otherwise face the German 
counteroffensive. 

Now the C-in-C West was responsible 
for two types of Wacht am Rhein divi- 
sions, those in the line which he must 
relieve for rest and refitting, and those 
which had been organized or rehabili- 
tated in the Reserve Army and dis- 
patched to Rundstedt's command. The 
weight of armor in the American attack 



TROOPS AND TERRAIN 



37 



east of Metz and the possibility that this 
thrust would rupture the German south 
wing at the joint between the First and 
Nineteenth Armies, impelled Rund- 
stedt to cling to those tanks which were 
on the Army Group G front. This he did 
in flat disobedience of direct orders 
from OKW. He went a step further on 
21 November and ordered the Panzer 
Lehr Division out of its assembly area 
and into a counterattack designed to 
block the American XV Corps, whose 
drive toward the Saverne Gap threat- 
ened to separate the First and Nine- 
teenth Armies. OKW ultimately agreed 
to this use of Panzer Lehr, but then 
called off the counterattack on 25 No- 
vember. The responsible Western Front 
commanders simply stalled the relief of 
the Panzer Lehr until it was clear that 
the division had suffered too much dam- 
age to allow any further hope of success. 

The upshot of the Allied offensive in 
Lorraine was that two panzer-type divi- 
sions scheduled for Wacht am Rhein be- 
came irretrievably embroiled in the 
losing battle being waged by Army 
Group G, while the elite Panzer Lehr 
Division limped back to its assembly area 
much reduced in strength and with 
badly shaken morale. None of the in- 
fantry divisions engaged in the battles 
east of Metz were scheduled for employ- 
ment in the Ardennes, but the redeploy- 
ment in the south of two divisions from 
the Eifel sector necessitated the prema- 
ture commitment of two Volks Grena- 
dier divisions from the Replacement 
Army as their relief. In addition the 
American attack in Lorraine would cost 
the Hitler offensive an entire Volks 
artiller / corps, two panzer brigades, and 
two heavy antitank battalions. 

The Third Battle of Aachen, begun 



on 16 November, was even more threat- 
ening in the eyes of OB WEST than the 
Allied drive in Lorraine. Within twenty- 
four hours the situation was so desperate 
that Model threw in his only tactical 
reserve, the XLVIII Panzer Corps. As 
the German casualties mounted on the 
Army Group B front, Rundstedt began 
to bleed his north wing, taking one di- 
vision after another from Army Group 
Student. By 20 November the prospect 
of an Allied breakthrough loomed so 
large that the C-in-C West asked OKW 
for the four reserve SS panzer divisions 
which were being readied to carry the 
main Ardennes attack by the Sixth 
Panzer Army. His request was denied. 
There ensued a tactical merry-go- 
round catching up divisions all the way 
from the Netherlands to Strasbourg. 
Rundstedt would bring in one of the di- 
visions which had been kept on ice for 
the coming offensive, relieve a battered 
division in the line, then in a few days 
shuffle the relieving division back to a 
reserve position close behind the line- 
sometimes with OKW approval, but 
more often without. Meanwhile the Ger- 
man artillery was working desperately to 
take the place of tactical air support— so 
marked by its absence. As early as the 
third day of the attack the light and 
medium howitzers bolstering the Army 
Group B positions were dipping into the 
special ammunition stocks which had 
been reserved by the Fuehrer for the 
Ardennes battle and which bore his im- 
print. Fuehrer Reserve. At the close of 
the first week of fighting in the Aachen 
area the German casualties there had 
risen to 12,000. Replacements who had 
been sent forward to reflesh the divisions 
being reorganized for Wacht am Rhein 
found themselves filling the gaping ranks 



38 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



of formations in the line. By the first 
week of December the Aachen battle 
had resulted in the direct commitment 
or a cessation of training and rehabilita- 
tion in the case of five panzer-type and 
seven infantry divisions. An additional 
six Volks artillery corps had been 
tossed into the fray but, made up of 
over-age reservists, they probably prof- 
ited by this enforced training period. 

It is hardly surprising that the impact 
of the attacks around Aachen and Metz 
should have further shaken Rundstedt's 
and Model's already wavering belief in 
the possibility of any large measure of 
success for the Ardennes counteroffen- 
sive. Model reacted more strongly than 
Rundstedt, the latter fatigued by the 
constant tug of war with OKW and more 
and more adopting the resignation of 
the aged. When Model again took up the 
cudgels for the Small Solution, stress- 
ing the paucity of forces left for the 
counteroffensive, he sounded a prophetic 
warning: "Should the attack be stopped 
at the Meuse due to the lack of reserves 
the only result will be a bulge in the 
line and not the destruction of sizable 
enemy forces [italics supplied]. . . . 
The widely stretched flanks, especially 
in the south, will only invite enemy 
counteractions." Hitler answered by as- 
suring OB WEST that "the number of 
units originally projected will be made 
available." This was on 27 November. 
The initial target date for Wacht am 
Rhein had come and gone; the Allied 
November offensive had been a spoiling 
attack in the true sense of the term, 
albeit unwittingly so. 

The German attack in the west 
launched on 10 May 1940, in so many 
respects the prototype for the 1 944 coun- 
teroffensive in the Ardennes, had been 



postponed some sixteen times.^ The 
period of planning and preparation had 
covered six and a half months. In 1959- 
40, however, there was no pressing rea- 
son to disturb the quiet of the "phony 
war," nor was the Third Reich seriously 
threatened on the ground or in the air. 
The summer disasters in 1944, on the 
contrary, demanded immediate action to 
recoup German losses and stave off an 
immediate threat. There is no question 
that Hitler's selection of the target date 
for the start of the offensive, 25 Novem- 
ber 1944, was made with every intention 
that the operation should begin in fact 
before the end of November. Further- 
more, Rundstedt and Model had ac- 
cepted this date without official question, 
despite the fact that it would leave them 
only one month in which to make ready. 
Rundstedt, however, had added a cau- 
tionary note by reminding OKW that the 
actual attack date would depend upon 
the arrival of the panzer divisions in 
their forward assembly positions and the 
completion of ammunition and fuel 
stockpiling in the concentration area. 

There is some evidence that the 
Fuehrer had chosen November not only 
for its promise of poor flying weather 
but also because he hoped to win a vic- 
tory in the west and release divisions to 
the Eastern Front before the beginning 
of the annual Soviet winter offensive. If 
so, this second desideratum was not con- 
sidered of really vital importance as 
planning progressed. The operation di- 
rective of 10 November in which Hitler 
ordered that the concentration period be 
ended by the 27th clearly referred to 



1 The numerous postponements of the German 
1940 offensive in the west were, for the most 
part, the result of Hitler's injunction that the 
attack be made in good flying weather. 



TROOPS AND TERRAIN 



39 



the weather and even included provisions 
for a stop-order to arrest the concentra- 
tion in midflight should tne weather 
suddenly turn fair. The concentration 
for Wacht am Rhein, already in progress 
when the U.S. Third Army reopened 
large-scale fighting on the Western 
Front, continued at a wobbly pace dur- 
ing the second and third weeks of No- 
vember. Eventually the impossibility of 
relieving the attack divisions as sched- 
uled and the delays wrought by the 
temporary commitment of units like the 
Panzer Lehr became so obvious as to 
brook no denial— even by Hitler. His 
postponement of the attack cannot be 
pinpointed, but the word probably came 
sometime after 23 November. On that 
date Model reported that of the armor 
slated for Wacht am Rhein only the four 
SS panzer divisions and the 2d Panzer 
Division had escaped premature com- 
mitment in the battles then raging. In 
Model's opinion— mark the date— the 
other divisions could not be readied be- 
fore 15 December. 

The Terrain 

The area through which Hitler chose 
to launch his counteroffensive was, with 
the exception of the Vosges, the most 
difficult terrain on the entire line of the 
Western Front. It consists of two major 
parts, the Eifel and the Ardennes. Al- 
though the whole is strewn with the 
relics of castles and fortified churches, 
there had been little military history en- 
acted within this area before 1914.^ A 



''The older military history of the Ardennes is 
narrated on a somewhat antiquarian basis in Revue 
Historique de I'Arrnee, 1955, 11' Annee, Numero 2. 
For the 1940 campaign see L. Menu, Lumiere Sur 
Les Ruines, Paris, 1953; also M. Fouillien and J. 



Straight line between Paris and Berlin 
will bisect the Eifel and Ardennes, but 
the movement of armies during the cen- 
turies normally had followed the easier 
roads going around this area: in the 
north via Liege-Maubeuge or the Flan- 
ders plains, in the south via the Metz 
gateway. On occasion the Ardennes and 
Eifel had been used by large forces for 
movement without fighting, battle being 
joined at the natural defense lines of 
the Meuse River west of the Ardennes, 
or the Rhine River east of the Eifel. 

In 1914, as part of the Schlieffen Plan, 
three of the Imperial German armies 
marched from the Eifel through the 
Ardennes. Schlieffen had predicted that 
the French would react to the pressure 
of the heavy German right wing as it 
swung through northern Belgium by 
counterattacking into the flank via south- 
eastern Belgium. It was an integral part 
of the famous plan, therefore, that the 
German right wing would be covered by 
an extension through southern Belgium 
and Luxembourg, and that the Ardennes 
massif would be used, if needed, as a 
bastion from which the French flanking 
attack would be repelled. A portion of 
the Second and all of the Third and 
Fourth German Armies did advance 
through southern Belgium and Luxem- 
bourg, the march through the main por- 
tion of the Ardennes being covered by 
the rapid movement of Richthofen's / 
Cavalry Corps. French reaction was slow 
and the tiny Belgian Army had been 
drawn away to defend Liege and Brus- 
sels. As a result the Germans marched 
across the main body of the Ardennes 
mass without a fight, the ultimate meet- 
ing engagements with the French on 22 

Bouhon, Mai 1940: La Bataille de Belgique, 
Bruxelles, n.d. 



40 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



August taking place in the densely 
wooded but less rugged segment of the 
Ardennes (sometimes called the Forest 
of Ardennes) close to the Belgian-French 
border in the neighborhood of Neufcha- 
teau and Virton. 

In 1940 the Ardennes once again was 
invaded and crossed by German troops, 
the jangle of Richthofen's squadrons 
giving way to the roar and grind of 
Kleist's tanks. This time, at Hitler's in- 
sistence, the German maneuver departed 
from the classic concept of Schlieffen, 
the weight of the German attack being 
thrown south of Liege rather than north, 
while a narrow thrust replaced the blud- 
geon strokes of a massive wheeling 
movement. This main effort toward a 
decisive breakthrough was launched 
through a narrow corridor marked ap- 
proximately by Bastogne in the north 
and Arlon in the south; but the bulk of 
three German armies debouched from 
the Eifel and marched across the Ar- 
dennes. As in 1914 the crossing of the 
Ardennes massif was little more than a 
route march, impeded ever so slightly 
by brave but tragic and futile attempts 
at resistance by the Belgian Chasseurs 
Ardennais. Without detracting from the 
courage of these few Belgians it is fair to 
say that the Germans did not have to 
fight before they reached the Meuse 
River, and even there they experienced 
little opposition. The German advance 
through southern Belgium and Luxem- 
bourg in 1914 had demonstrated that a 
huge modern force could be concen- 
trated via rail in the abrupt, broken 
country of the Eifel, and from thence be 
moved afoot or ahorse through the worst 
of the Ardennes mass. 

The events of 1940 proved that mecha- 
nized forces could move speedily 



through the Ardennes, and more, that 
not only was Hitler correct in his insist- 
ence on the use of large mechanized 
forces in the Ardennes, but that the pro- 
fessionals in OKH who had opposed him 
were wrong. In 1944, as a result, it was 
known that the terrain in the Eifel and 
Ardennes was not so bad but what it 
could be quickly negotiated by modern 
mechanized armies under conditions of 
good weather and little or no enemy re- 
sistance. What history could not demon- 
strate, for the lessons were lacking, was 
whether modern, mechanized armies 
could attack through the Ardennes and 
speedily overcome a combination of 
stubborn enemy defense, difficult 
ground, and poor weather. Terrain, 
then, would play a peculiarly important 
role in the development of the 1944 
counteroffensive. 

Although the Ardennes has given its 
name to the campaign under study, this 
area should be lumped with that of the 
Eifel, the composite of the tablelands to 
the east which sheltered the German 
concentration during the late autumn of 
1944. These two areas are extensions of 
the Westerwald, blending almost insensi- 
bly into each other and sharing many of 
the same characteristics. The Eifel is the 
complex of hill ranges— they can hardly 
be called mountains— lying between the 
Rhine, the Moselle, and the Roer Rivers, 
mostly in Germany. Only the two west- 
ernmost of the Eifel highlands or ranges 
need be mentioned here. East of St. Vith 
and just inside the German border is 
the Schnee Eifel, a high tree-covered 
ridge or hogback. It extends from the 
northeast to the southwest, a character- 
istic thrust line in the entire area, and in 
1944 was crested on much of its length 
by the West Wall fortifications. East of 




NoviLLE AND Stolzemburg. Towns in the Ardennes are small and usually fall into one 
of two types: a cluster of houses at a crossroads, such as Noville ( above ), and a river valley 
settlement, such as Stolzemburg on the Our ( below). 




42 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



Liege is the Hohes Venn, a long table- 
land topped with lakes and marshes. The 
Hohes Venn is larger than the Schnee 
Eifel. Its northeast-southwest course is 
defined by a line through Malmedy and 
Monschau on the German face and by a 
line through Eupen and Spa on the Bel- 
gian. In the northeast the Hohes Venn 
is prolonged by the Hiirtgen Forest. As 
the Schnee Eifel forms a barrier covering 
St. Vith on the east, so the Hohes Venn 
is a large outer bastion for Liege. Al- 
though the Hohes Venn is geologically 
a part of the Eifel it is somewhat re- 
moved from the other parts of the 
complex and represents the gradual and 
sometimes indefinable blending of the 
Eifel and Ardennes. 

The Eifel is thickly covered with 
forests and provides good cover from air 
observation even in the fall and winter. 
The area has no large towns but rather 
is marked by numerous small villages, 
requiring extensive dispersion for any 
large forces billeted here. The road net 
is adequate for a large military concen- 
tration. The rail net is extensive, havinsf 
been engineered and expanded before 
1914 for the quick deployment of troops 
west of the Rhine. The railroads feed 
into the Eifel from Koblenz, Cologne, 
and the lesser Rhine bridgeheads be- 
tween these tiro. The main rail line, hoiv- 
ever, does not cross the Eifel but follows 
the Moselle valley on the southern 
fringe of the Eifel. Rail and road sys- 
tems throughout the Eifel are marked by 
meandering courses and numerous 
bridge crossings thrown over rivers and 
deep ravines. 

The Ardennes, like the Eifel, is not a 
single and well-defined bloc. The general 
area may be defined as a wedge with the 
point between Aachen and Diiren. The 



northern edge is a diagonal: Aachen, 
Liege, Maubeuge, Landrecis. The south- 
ern edge (much debated by geologists) 
is a more pronounced diagonal running 
from Aachen southwest to Arlon. The 
base, formed by the Foret des Ardennes 
or French Ardennes, roughly coincides 
with the Franco-Belgian frontier and the 
Semois River. The Ardennes has three 
recognized subdepartments: the High 
Ardennes in the south, the Famenne De- 
pression in the middle, and the Low 
Ardennes in the north. The Low Ar- 
dennes tends to be open and rolling, but 
includes two plateaus: that of Herve, be- 
tween Liege and Aachen, and Condroz, 
between the lower Ourthe and the 
Meuse in the vicinity of Dinant. This 
sector is more readily traversed than is 
the High Ardennes, but it is relatively 
narrow, maneuver is constricted by 
the flanking line of the Meuse River, and 
entrance from the east presupposes that 
the invader has possession of Aachen and 
the roads circling north or south of the 
Hohes Venn. 

The Famenne Depression is only a 
thin sliver of the Ardennes wedge. The 
Famenne is free from tree cover except 
for the characteristic ^buttes which dot 
the depression. Scooped out of the Ar- 
dennes massif, this long, narrow depres- 
sion originates at the upper Ourthe and 
extends westward through Marche and 
Rochefort. It reaches the Meuse between 
Givet and Dinant, offering a good cross- 
ing site which often has been employed 
by European armies operating on the 
Meuse. But an invader from the German 
frontier must traverse much difficult 
terrain before debouching into this 
"march through" depression. 

The Hiofh Ardennes is often called 
the "True Ardennes." It is not properly 



TROOPS AND TERRAIN 



43 



mountainous, nor yet a forest; rather it 
is a wide plateau or high plain out o£ 
which rise elevations in the form of 
ridges or higher plateaus erupting from 
the main mass. These elevations gener- 
ally are unrelated to one another and 
combine with large forests to form iso- 
lated and independent compartments in 
which tactical domination of one hill 
mass seldom provides domination of an- 
other. The mass structure extends on a 
northeast-southwest axis, forming a 
watershed which drains away to the 
Meuse in the north and the Moselle in 
the southeast. Perhaps a third of the area 
is covered with forest, much of which is 
coniferous. This timber, however, is 
scattered all over the High Ardennes 
and presents a patchwork picture rather 
than a series of large forested preserves. 
The main mass is cut in zigzag patterns 
by winding, deeply eroded rivers and 
streams, some flowing parallel to the 
higher ridges, others crossing so as to 
chop the ridges and the welts on the pla- 
teau into separate sections. In some 
places the watercourses run through nar- 
row, almost canyonlike depressions with 
steep walls rising from a hundred to 
three hundred feet. Even the wider 
valleys are narrow when compared with 
the western European norm. 

The road net in 1944 was far richer 
than the population and the economic 
activity of the Ardennes would seem to 
warrant. This was not the result of mili- 
tary planning, as in the case of the Eifel 
rail lines, but rather of Belgian and 
Luxemburgian recognition of the value 
of automobile tourisme just prior to 
World War II. All of the main roads had 
hard surfaces, generally of macadam. Al- 
though the road builders tried to follow 
the more level stretches of the ridge 



lines or wider valley floors, in many cases 
the roads twisted sharply and turned on 
steep grades down into a deep ravine 
and out again on the opposite side. The 
bridges were normally built of stone. 
There were ten all-weather roads cross- 
ing from the German frontier into Bel- 
gium and Luxembourg in the sector be- 
tween Monschau and Wasserbillig, but 
there was not a single main highway 
traversing the Ardennes in a straight 
east-west direction. 

There are no cities in the Ardennes, 
unless the capital of Luxembourg and 
Arlon are included in this area. The larg- 
est villages had, in 1944, populations of 
2,500 to 4,000. The normal settlement in 
the Ardennes was the small village with 
stone houses and very narrow, winding 
streets. These villages often constricted 
the through road to single-lane traffic. 
Another military feature was the lone 
farmstead or inn which gave its name to 
the crossroads at which it stood. 

The fact that most of the High Ar- 
dennes lies inside Belgium leads to some 
confusion, since one of the administra- 
tive subdivisions of that kingdom is 
named "Ardennes" but is not exactly 
conterminous with the geographical 
area. Luxembourg, into which the Ar- 
dennes extends, is divided in two parts, 
roughly along a line from Attert on the 
west to a point midway between 
Vianden and Diekirch on the eastern 
boundary. The northern half generally 
is considered an extension of the High 
Ardennes (although one may find as 
many definitions of the south edge of the 
Ardennes as there are writers touching 
the subject) ; in any case it shares the 
same physical properties. The southern 
half of Luxembourg, known appropri- 
ately as the "Good Land," is less high, 



44 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



has more open space, and its valleys 
normally can be traveled. A single 
river, the Alzette, bisects this part of 
Luxembourg in a north-south course 
which takes it through the capital city. 
But the eastern approach to the Good 
Land erases much of its military attrac- 
tiveness. Between Sierck and Wasser- 
billig the Moselle River forms the 
boundary between Luxembourg and 
Germany. In this sector the left or Lux- 
embourg bank of the river is especially 
difficult even by comparison with the 
normal terrain obstacles encountered in 
the High Ardennes. Farther north, 
where the Sauer River continues the 
boundary, the river valley is somewhat 
less formidable but is backed up by a 
broken, gorge-riven area in the neighbor- 
hood of Echternach known as the "Lux- 
embourg Switzerland." 

It is natural, with the Ardennes mass 
forming a northeast-southwest divide be- 
tween the tributaries of the Meuse and 
the Moselle and with rugged geological 
patterns twisting and turning these tribu- 
taries, that the military hydrography of 
the Ardennes should be important. The 
prolongation of the Ardennes in north- 
ern Luxembourg is dissected by four 
rivers. On the eastern frontier the Our 
River continues the boundary trace be- 
gun by the Moselle and the Sauer. In 
the interior the Wiltz, the Clerf, and the 
Sure divide the country into water- 
bound compartments. Their valleys are 
long and narrow, so narrow and tortuous 
that they cannot be followed by roads. 
They are further complicated by "cups" 
scoured out of the side walls and by cross 
ravines, deep and narrow. 

In the Ardennes north of Luxembourg 
it is possible to cross from Germany into 
Belgium without traversing a major 



stream. About twenty miles west of the 
frontier, however, comes the first of the 
rivers descending from the High Ar- 
dennes into the Meuse; these are the 
Ambleve and the Salm which serve as 
flankers for the swamp-encrusted table- 
land of the Hohes Venn and must be 
crossed in any movement west from St. 
Vith, Malmedy, or Spa. Next comes the 
longest of these rivers, the Ourthe, 
which is the most severe military ob- 
stacle east of the Meuse. It originates 
west of Bastogne as a small creek, then 
meanders north until it meets the Meuse 
at Liege. At Ortheuville the Ourthe be- 
gins to cut through a narrow and wind- 
ing defile with steep, rocky sides fringed 
by pine trees. Just north of La Roche 
the Ourthe leaves its tortuous canyons 
and enters the Famenne Depression. 
That part of the course between Ortheu- 
ville and La Roche permits no road ad- 
jacent to the river bed; all approaches to 
the east-west crossing sites are difficult. 
Just east of the defile through which 
flows the middle Ourthe lies the Plateau 
des Tallies, which rises to over 1,800 feet 
at the Baraque de Fraiture. Two 
rivers are found between the Ourthe 
and the Meuse: the Lesse and L' Homme 
whose confluence is near Rochefort. 
Neither of these rivers is too difficult of 
negotiation, but the main westward 
crossing for movement toward Dinant 
and the Meuse centers at Rochefort. 
At the very edge of the Ardennes in the 
southwest is the Semois River, which 
wends its way westward from Arlon to 
the Meuse. The Semois is deeply sunk 
through much of its course, flowing be- 
tween steep walls which descend directly 
to the water's edge and so deny space 
for road or rail on the valley bottom. 
Although the rivers of the Eifel, as dis- 



TROOPS AND TERRAIN 



45 



tinct from those o£ the Ardennes, would 
have no tactical significance in the battle 
of the Ardennes, they were to be o£ 
very considerable logistic, or what the 
Germans style "operational," impor- 
tance. The northernmost, the Ahr, fol- 
lows an oblique course northeast until it 
enters the Rhine at Sinzig. From the 
Schnee Ei£el comes the Kyll, bending 
southward to meet the Moselle not far 
from Trier. Paralleling the Kyll in the 
west is the Priim River. It is the last 
stream of any importance before the Ger- 
man frontier is reached. Like the Kyll 
its sources are in the heights of the 
Schnee Eifel. The beautiful Moselle at- 
tracts numerous small tributaries rush- 
ing down from the Eifel, but only the 
Moselle itself deserves attention. Alter- 
nating between scenes of towering rocks 
and meadow passages, the German 
Moselle winds and turns capriciously 
from its entrance on German soil, past 
Trier and a host of little villages whose 
names are known to all lovers of the 
vine, until finally it rushes past the 
"German Corner" at Koblenz and into 
the Rhine. Just as the Moselle vineyards 
of renown alternate from one bank to 
the other, so the railroad line and the 
highway crisscross the river throughout 
its middle reaches; but rail and road 
come to a focal point only a few kilome- 
ters from the Luxembourg frontier at 
the old Roman city of Trier. 

Throughout this whole area military 
routes of movement, regardless of the 
weather, are synonymous with the road 
system. The roads of the Ardennes pro- 
liferate in accordance with the geological 
compartments incised in the high pla- 
teau by rivers and streams as they recede 
downward. The main roads tend to fol- 
low a north-south axis, although one. 



from Luxembourg to Namur, cuts across 
the grain of the main mass in a south- 
east-northwest direction. In the north- 
east the chief road centers are Monschau, 
Malmedy, and St. Vith. The southeast- 
ern nodal points are Ettelbruck, Mersch, 
and, of course, Luxembourg. To the 
northwest Bastogne, Marche, and Roche- 
fort are the paramount links in the road 
system. Arlon, Neufchateau, and Libra- 
mont, in the southwest, complete this 
picture. The Eifel is rimmed by a main 
road system which hugs the west bank of 
the Rhine between Bonn and Koblenz, 
then follows the Moselle River until it 
breaks away cross-country via Wittlich 
to reach Trier. The circuit is completed 
by a road which goes north from Trier 
through Bitburg, Priim, and Euskirchen, 
finally bifurcating to reach the Rhine at 
Bonn and at Cologne. Inside of this cir- 
cuit the chief communications centers 
are Mayen, Daun, Kochem, and, at- 
tached to the outer ring, Wittlich. 

The character of the Eifel-Ardennes 
terrain dictates three major bases of op- 
erations for an attack from the German 
frontier. In the north the Aachen sector 
is one such base. The direction of attack 
here would be through the Low Ar- 
dennes via Eupen, Verviers, Marche, and 
Rochefort to the Meuse at Givet. The 
next base, to the south, lies between 
Monschau and the Losheim Gap. The 
westward thrust from this base must go 
over and between Malmedy and St. Vith. 
The broadest base of operations is in the 
south between Priim and Trier. In this 
case the attack must be made against the 
grain of the Ardennes mass except for a 
penetration from Trier to the French 
frontier at Virton or Longwy which may 
bypass the more rugged country to the 
north by movement through the Good 



46 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



Land of southern Luxembourg. This 
last route, however, is by far the longest 
for any attack aimed at reaching the 
Meuse River. 

The geography of the Ardennes leads 
inevitably to the channelization of large 
troop movements east to west, will tend 
to force larger units to "pile up" on each 
other, and restricts freedom of maneuver 
once the direction of attack and order of 
battle are fixed. To a marked degree the 
military problem posed by the terrain is 
that of movement control rather than 
maneuver in the classic sense. For the 
smaller tactical units, the chopped-up 
nature of the ground plus the peculiar 
timber formations in which dense wood 
lots are interspersed with natural or man- 
rnade clearings, indicates the develop- 
ment of a series of small, semi-indepen- 
dent engagements once the larger battle 
is joined. Movement cross-country is 
limited, even in good weather; move- 
ment along the narrow valley floors may 
be blocked there or in the villages at 
points of descent and ascent. The back- 
bone of the ridges sometimes offers good 
observation in the immediate area for 
detecting movement on the roads which 
climb the hills and plateaus. Locally, 
however, the gunner or fighter pilot will 
find many blind spots formed by the 
thick tree cover or the deep draws and 
ravines; the ability of high-angle fire to 
beat reverse slopes, which really are 
sheer, steep walls, is limited. 

What the German planners saw in 
1944 was this: the Ardennes could be 
traversed by large forces even when 
these were heavily mechanized. An at- 
tack from east to west across the massif 
would encounter initially the greatest 
obstacles of terrain, but these obstacles 
would decrease in number as an advance 



neared the Meuse. In 1914 and 1940 the 
German armies moving across the Ar- 
dennes had no reason to anticipate strong 
opposition on the ground until the 
Meuse had been reached and the tortu- 
ous defiles left behind. In 1940 the only 
German concern had been that the 
French air force would catch the ar- 
mored columns at the crossings of the 
Sauer and Our Rivers. In both these 
earlier campaigns the Germans had 
thrown a protective screen clear to the 
Meuse within twenty-four hours after 
the advance began; the initial objectives 
of these screening movements have more 
than historic significance: Bastogne, St. 
Vith, Arlon, Malmedy, La Roche, and 
the bridges over the Ourthe River. 

The ground offered the defender 
three natural defense positions east of 
the Meuse, although none of these con- 
stituted an impassable barrier to the at- 
tacker: (1) a covering line echeloned 
to the southeast between Liege and the 
Moselle, this pegged on the Hohes Venn, 
the rugged zone around Malmedy and 
St. Vith, and the boxed-in course of the 
Our and Sauer Rivers; (2) the Ourthe 
River line; and (3) an intermediate po- 
sition, shorter in length, based on the 
plateau at Bastogne and extending along 
a chain of ridges to Neufchateau. 

There remains a word to be said about 
the climate of the Ardennes and Eifel. 
This is mountainous country, with much 
rainfall, deep snows in winter, and raw, 
harsh winds sweeping across the plateaus. 
The heaviest rains come in November 
and December. The mists are frequent 
and heavy, lasting well into late morning 
before they break. Precise predictions by 
the military meteorologist, however, 
are difficult because the Ardennes lies 
directly on the boundary between the 



TROOPS AND TERRAIN 



47 



northwestern and central European cli- 
matic regions and thus is affected by the 
conjuncture of weather moving east 
from the British Isles and the Atlantic 
with that moving westward out of Russia. 
At Stavelot freezing weather averages 
112 days a year, at Bastogne 145 days. 
The structure of the soil will permit 
tank movement when the ground is 
frozen, but turns readily to a clayey mire 
in time of rain. Snowfall often attains a 
depth of ten to twelve inches in a 24-hour 
period. Snow lingers for a long time in 
the Ardennes but— and this is important 



in recounting the events of 1944— the 
deep snows come late."* 



" The best o£ numerous terrain descriptions o£ 
the Ardennes was prepared by the German General 
Staff in 1940, especially for the offensive in the west. 
It is entitled Mililaergeographischer ueberblick 
ueber Belgien und angrenzende Gebiete. See also 
the British official publication of 1918: A Manual 
of Belgium and the Adjoining Territories (ed. 
The Admiralty) . The best analysis of German 
military thought on the problem presented by 
the Ardennes terrain is in a manuscript by Magna 
E. Bauer entitled Comparison Between the Plan- 
ning for the German Ardennes Offensive in 1944 
and for the Campaign in the West in 1940 (1951). 
OCMH. 



CHAPTER IV 



Preparations 



Deception and Camouflage 

Hitler's selection o£ the Ardennes as 
the sector in which the western counter- 
offensive would be launched was based 
in the main on the obvious advantage of 
attacking the Allies where they were 
weakest. Even so, although the Western 
Allies could not be strong everywhere 
along the line from Switzerland to the 
North Sea, they did outnumber the 
Germans in men, tanks, guns, and planes, 
they were possessed of greater facility for 
rapid movement of large forces, and 
they— not the Germans— had the stra- 
tegic initiative. At the first word of 
German preparations in the Eifel and 
Ardennes the Allies could terminate one 
or both of their major offensives and 
divert large forces into the threatened 
area. 

The accepted strategic gambit, prac- 
ticed with great success by German com- 
manders in the west during World War 
I, would be to deliver a series of large- 
scale attacks in sectors well removed 
from the area from which the main 
counteroffensive was to be launched. But 
the divisions and the logistic support for 
such diversionary attacks did not exist. 
The German armies in the west could 
not uncover the enemy's jaw by a blow 
in Holland or a kidney punch in Alsace; 
instead they had to rely on the adroit 
misdirection practiced by the conjuror, 
turning Allied eyes away from the Eifel 



long enough to complete the massive 
preparations therein. 

The German military profession had 
a record of some notable achievements in 
the attainment of strategic surprise. The 
Ludendorff March offensive in 1918 had 
been a brilliant example— indeed a 
model— of a great offensive whose prepa- 
ration had completely escaped detection. 
The meticulous detail employed by 
Ludendorff's planners had achieved such 
success that the 1918 plans for the cover 
and movement of artillery simply were 
copied in the artillery build-up for the 
Ardennes. The German offensive in 
1940 likewise had been a marked ex- 
ample of strategic surprise, despite the 
forced landing on Belgian soil of a 
German plane carrying two liaison offi- 
cers who had been entrusted with the 
attack plan. The chief security tenets 
adopted in preparation for the 1940 at- 
tack had been personally dictated by 
Hitler, and the first formal security 
order issued by OKW in preparation for 
the Ardennes counteroffensive was a re- 
statement of the Fuehrer Directive of 1 1 
January 1940. (This time, however, liai- 
son officers party to the plan were ex- 
pressly forbidden to travel by plane.) 
Subsequent security measures would re- 
flect or rephrase those which had been 
so successful in 1940.^ 

Probably the Fuehrer's personal influ- 

^ Bauer, Planning for German Ardennes Offen- 
sive in 1944. . . . and 1940, app. 8. 



PREPARATIONS 



49 



ence was felt most directly in limiting 
the circle of those privy to the plan 
during its conception and initial imple- 
mentation. Hitler, the highest authority 
in the German armed forces, personally 
named the officers who were to be ad- 
mitted to the great secret; furthermore, 
he possessed the power to exact the 
death penalty for violations of security, 
a power he could be expected to exer- 
cise on the slightest provocation and 
without regard to the rank or prestige of 
the offender. Even the well-disciplined, 
high-ranking officers of the Wehrmacht 
seem to have been apprehensive of the 
personal risks which each encountered 
the moment he was admitted to the plan. 
So strict was the limitation of knowledge 
that in those headquarters charged with 
the command of the counterofiFensive, 
OB WEST and Army Group B, the only 
officers brought into the planning phase 
were Rundstedt and Model, plus the 
chief of staff, the G-3, the quartermaster 
officer, and one aide in each of their 
respective staffs. In OB WEST, for ex- 
ample, the daily and most secret war 
diary contained no reference to the 
counteroffensive; instead a separate war 
diary was maintained, without benefit of 
secretary or stenographer, by the few 
officers working on the plan. The ex- 
change of information between the re- 
sponsible headquarters was carried by 
liaison officers whose every movement 
was watched by military and Gestapo 
security agents. All teletype and tele- 
phone lines were monitored the clock 
around and the officers in the know were 
so informed. Hitler had a mania for 
"oaths." Everyone admitted to the plan 
took not one but ofttimes several oaths 
to maintain secrecy, signing at least one 
statement which accepted the death 



penalty for any personal breach of 
security. Later, division and corps com- 
manders would be compelled to take an 
oath that during the advance they would 
not trespass in the attack zone assigned 
neighboring units. The death penalty 
attached to this as well.^ 

Although the immediate planning 
staffs could be drastically limited, it was 
obvious that some hundreds of officers 
would have to be involved in the actual 
handling of troops and supplies during 
the concentration period, that is from 
about 10 November, when the major re- 
shuffling of headquarters and larger 
troop units would commence, until the 
date selected for the jump-off in the Ar- 
dennes. The German system of staff 
work, based on the rigid allocation of 
authority and unquestioning obedience 
to orders, was well designed to cope with 
this situation. Furthermore, the Allied 
attacks in November were launched on 
such a scale and achieved such success as 
to give real meaning to the Hitler-in- 
spired cover plan. The Defensive Battle 
in the West. Until the very last hours 
before the counteroffensive the Western 
Front German commanders accepted as 
gospel the idea that the massing of ma- 
teriel and the progressive withdrawal of 
divisions from the line was intended to 
provide fresh troops for the defense of 
the Ruhr and the Palatinate. Indeed the 
field commanders were much perplexed 
in the last days before the Ardennes 
counteroffensive by reason of what they 
regarded as the high command's caprici- 
ousness and folly in refusing to throw 
its reserves into the defensive battles 



= MS#B-038, 116th Panzer Division, Ardennes 
(Generalmajor Siegfried von Waldenburg) . 



50 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



then reaching a climax in the Aachen 
and Saverne Gap sectors.^ 

The cover and deception plan, per- 
sonally devised by Hitler, turned on a 
half-truth. A part of the strategic con- 
centration would be made in the Rheydt- 
Jiilich-Cologne area east of Aachen. 
Here the preparations for the counter- 
offensive would be paraded before the 
Allies. To the south, at the entry to the 
chosen path of attack, the Eifel concen- 
tration was to be accomplished under 
conditions of greatest secrecy behind the 
thin line manned by the weak Seventh 
Army. Then, at the last moment, the 
troops from the northern concentration 
area would slip south to join the main 
build-up in the Eifel. The cover plan, 
as propagated through the German com- 
mands on the Western Front and retailed 
to the Allies by neutrals and double- 
agents, had this scenario: Germany 
feared that the U.S. First and Ninth 
Armies would achieve a real break- 
through and drive to the Rhine in the 
sector between Cologne and Bonn; in 
preparation for this untoward event the 
Fuehrer was amassing a major counter- 
attack force northwest of Cologne; a 
secondary and relatively small force of 
burned-out divisions was being gathered 
in the Eifel to contain the right flank of 
the expected Allied penetration.^ 

The main actor in this play was the 
Sixth Panzer Army. Ostensibly its head- 
quarters remained northwest of Cologne. 
Four of the armored divisions actually 
assigned to this headquarters also as- 
sembled in this area. The intensification 
of rail ai;id road traffic which began here 

"Cole, The Lorraine Campaign, pp. 510-12. 

* The detailed deception scenario is given by 
Maj. Percy Schramm, then historian at OKW 
headquarters, in MS#A-86a. 



about mid-November was only partly 
concealed. Much movement was made in 
daylight. A program of road repair and 
civilian evacuation was begun with little 
attempt at camouflage. Radio traffic was 
increased commensurate with the troop 
concentration. Additional antiaircraft 
battalions came into the area and with 
them special allotments of ammunition 
to produce a thickening of fire which 
the Allied air forces could not possibly 
fail to notice. To emphasize further still 
what was transpiring here in the north, a 
ghost army was brought into being on 20 
November; this, the Twenty-fifth, sup- 
posedly had an order of battle of ten di- 
visions including some of the panzer 
divisions which in fact belonged to the 
Sixth Panzer Army. 

In contrast to this northern concentra- 
tion, that in the Eifel was the product of 
secrecy carried to the limit. The Eifel 
terrain was well adapted to concealment. 
Thick forest cover cloaked its slopes, its 
valleys and plateaus. Small villages, 
singly not worthy of aerial investigation 
but in sum capable of harboring large 
forces, offered excellent dispersal. Cam- 
ouflage had become second nature with 
the German soldier in the west— indeed 
since Normandy the art of camouflage 
had become the science of survival, and 
the Eifel made this task relatively easy. 
Strict traffic regulation confined all rail 
movements and road marches to hours 
of darkness. Special security detachments 
prowled the Eifel, and woe to the com- 
mander who allowed a vehicle park to 
grow beyond normal size. A radio black- 
out was thrown over the concentration 
area except for those units actually fac- 
ing the enemy in the covering positions. 
No artillery registration was permitted 
except by guns in the line, and even they 



PREPARATIONS 



51 



were limited to a few rounds per day. 
Reconnaissance was confined to a hand- 
ful of higher officers; combat patrolling 
on the Ardennes front was almost en- 
tirely limited to nighttime search for 
American patrols. 

There were a few potential weaknesses 
in the screen thrown around and over 
the Eifel. At one time the Allies had 
flown night reconnaissance missions 
across the Eifel, using flares for photog- 
raphy. Even Rundstedt was worried lest 
a repetition of these missions disclose the 
German secret. Next was the problem 
of deserters. A quiet sector, particularly 
in an area as rugged as the Ardennes 
and Eifel, offered numerous chances for 
a malcontent to slip over to the enemy. 
The so-called Volksdeutsch (Alsatians, 
Transylvanians, and the like) had the 
worst record in this regard; these were 
combed out of all forward units and 
would not rejoin their outfits until the 
battle began. Hitler himself required a 
special daily report from OB WEST 
listing all known deserters for the 24- 
hour period. As it turned out the num- 
ber of deserters was surprisingly small, 
only five on the Western Front during 
the first twelve days of December.^ 

There remained the problem of 
widening and improving miles of road 
in the Eifel without attracting undue 
enemy attention. Furthermore the road- 
blocks and barriers thrown up as part of 
the West Wall defenses had to be re- 
moved in those sectors where the initial 
armored penetration would be made. 
Such activity hardly could be concealed. 
The answer was to undertake road con- 
struction in both the northern and south- 
ern areas of concentration, tying this to 
the cover plan. 

'OB WEST KTB, 13 Dec 44. 



German discipline and experience, 
backed and enforced by all the security 
paraphernalia of a police state, might be 
able to divert enemy attention to the 
north and prepare a real strategic sur- 
prise in the Eifel. In. the long run success 
or failure would turn on Allied activity 
in the air. Could the preparations for 
the counteroffensive be completed be- 
fore enemy planes spotted the Eifel con- 
centration of troops and vehicles? 

The Western Front in Early 
December 

The Allied attacks in November had 
as their objective the decisive defeat of 
the enemy west of the Rhine and the 
seizure of a foothold on the east bank of 
that river. By the end of November, 
the U.S. First and Ninth Armies, charged 
with the main effort, had made some 
gains in the direction of Bonn and 
Cologne. The 21 Army Group, in the 
north, had crossed the Waal River, the 
left arm of the lower Rhine. The U.S. 
Third Army had put troops on the Saar 
River. Farther to the south the U.S. 
Seventh Army had captured Strasbourg 
and reached the Rhine. The 1st French 
Army, on the extreme south flank, mean- 
while had liberated Belfort and en- 
trapped sizable German forces in the 
Colmar pocket. Although Allied losses 
had been high, those inflicted on the 
enemy had been even greater, probably 
on the order of two or three to one. But 
the Allies had failed to achieve their 
main strategic goals: they had not de- 
cisively defeated the German armies 
west of the Rhine, nor had they crossed 
the river. {Map i) 

On 7 December General Dwight D. 
Eisenhower, Air Chief Marshal Sir 




THE WESTERN FRONT 

!5 December 1944 



40 KILOMETERS 



MAP 1 



J>. Noimes, Jn 



PREPARATIONS 



53 



Arthur W. Tedder, Field Marshal Sir 
Bernard L. Montgomery, and Lt. Gen. 
Omar N. Bradley met at Maastricht to 
lay plans for future operations. There 
was general agreement that the Allies 
should launch an all-out offensive on the 
Western Front early in 1945 but consid- 
erable variance between the views of 
Eisenhower and Montgomery as to the 
future scheme of maneuver and disposi- 
tion of forces. Montgomery held, as he 
had since September, for a single strong 
thrust across the Rhine north of the 
Ruhr and the restriction of all other 
operations to containing actions by 
limited forces. Eisenhower agreed with 
the proposal for a main attack north of 
the Ruhr by Montgomery's 21 Army 
Group and was prepared to give 
the field marshal the U.S. Ninth Army. 
But he was unwilling to abandon his oft- 
expressed concept of the one-two punch 
with Patton's Third Army swinging a 
secondary blow toward the Frankfurt 
Gate.« 

After the Maastricht meeting, Eisen- 
hower set plans in motion to continue 
pressure on the enemy and chew up as 
many German divisions as possible be- 
fore the main offensive in the north. To 
accomplish this the Supreme Com- 
mander gave permission for the Third 
Army to mount an offensive along the 
Saar front on ig December and directed 
Lt. Gen. Jacob L. Devers, the 6th Army 
Group commander, to support the drive 
with elements of the Seventh Army. In 
the meantime these two armies contin- 
ued heavy local attacks, Patton driving 
on Saarlautern while Lt. Gen Alexander 



^Forrest C. Pogue, The Supreme Command, United 
States Army in World War II (Washington, 1954), 
p. 316. 



M. Patch's Seventh Army turned north 
into the Saverne Gap. 

At the opposite end of the long Allied 
line, Montgomery gave orders in early 
December for the British Second Army 
to "tidy up" the 21 Army Group posi- 
tion on the Meuse with an attack calcu- 
lated to erase the Heinsberg salient. This 
operation was flooded out, however, and 
on 16 December advance parties were 
moving north as the first step in a major 
shift to the left preparatory to the attack 
toward Krefeld and the Ruhr, now 
tentatively scheduled for the second 
week in January. South of 21 Army 
Group Lt. Gen. William H. Simpson's 
U.S. Ninth Army liquidated the remain- 
ing enemy forces in the Jiilich sector and 
by 14 December had closed along the 
Roer River. Lt. Gen. Courtney H. 
Hodges' First Army, to the right of the 
Ninth, also had reached the Roer, after 
the bloody Hiirtgen battle, but could 
not risk a crossing attack while the 
Germans held the Urft-Roer dams. A 
series of air attacks was launched early 
in December to breach the dams and re- 
move the threat of enemy-controlled 
floods, but with so little success that the 
deal passed to the First Army.'^ Bradley 
ordered Hodges to seize the Schwam- 
menauel and the Urftalsperre, the key 
points in the Roer valley system of dams, 
and on 13 December the First Army 
commander put the V Corps, his center, 
into an attack toward the dams. His 
northernmost corps, VII Corps, was as- 
signed a support role in this attack and 
would attain its limited objectives by 16 
December. 

The mission and deployment of Maj. 
Gen. Leonard T. Gerow's V Corps later 

'See MacDonald, The Siegfried Line Campaign, 
pp. 597-98- 



54 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 




General Bradley, Air Chief Marshal Tedder, General Eisenhower, and 
Field Marshal Montgomery (left to right), during the Maastricht meeting. 



had a direct effect in determining the 
initial American reaction to the German 
attack. Gerow had four infantry divi- 
sions, two armored combat commands, 
and a cavalry group at his disposal. A 
new division, the 78th, was deployed in 
the corps center on a front extending 
from Lammersdorf to Monschau. On 
the left, the 8th Infantry Division 
fronted along the Kyll River line. The 
right wing was held by the ggth In- 
fantry Division, whose positions reached 
from Monschau to the V-VIII Corps 
boundary in the Buchholz Forest north- 
west of the Losheim Gap. The first 
phase of the V Corps attack was to be 



carried by the 78th and 2d Infantry 
Divisions, the latter coming up from an 
assembly area at Camp Elsenborn and 
passing through the ggth Division left. 
The 8th and ggth would confine their 
efforts initially to demonstrations and 
line-straightening. The first day of the 
attack went as planned, but on 14 De- 
cember the enemy stiffened and on the 
15th counterattacked; the 78th Division 
became involved in a rough battle at 
Rollesbroich and Kesternich, while the 
2d bogged down in a slow-moving fight 
for individual pillboxes in the Monschau 
Forest. This was the situation when the 
enemy onslaught hit the ggth Division 



PREPARATIONS 



55 



and its VIII Corps neighbors on the 
the morning of 16 December. 




General Middleton 

Maj. Gen. Troy H. Middleton's VIII 
Corps on First Army's right flank had no 
part in the Allied attacks of early De- 
cember. Two of Middleton's infantry 
divisions were weary and casualty-ridden 
from the intense fighting of the Novem- 
ber push to the Roer. The third was 
newly arrived from the United States. 
The corps mission, then, was to train, 
rest, re-equip, and observe the enemy. 
Nonetheless this was no Blighty, a haven 
for second-rate troops and bumbling 
commanders. The 28th Infantry Division 
(Maj. Gen. Norman D. Cota) and the 
4th Infantry Division (Maj. Gen. Ray- 
mond O. Barton) had distinguished 
thernselves in the bloody battles of the 
Hiirtgen Forest. The veterans of this 
fight were well equipped to train and 
hearten the replacements for some 9,000 



battle casualties the two divisions had 
sustained. General Middleton himself 
had a fine combat record reaching from 
World War I through Sicily, Normandy, 
and Brittany. Deliberate and calm but 
tenacious, he was regarded by Bradley 
and Patton as one of the best tacticians 
in the U.S. Army. 

As the result of the relief of the 83d 
Infantry Division, en route to the VII 
Corps, the deployment of the VIII Corps 
(as it would meet the German attack) 
took final form on the 13th. The 4th 
Infantry Division abutted on the Third 
Army at the Luxembourg-French fron- 
tier and followed the Moselle and Sauer 
Rivers, marking the German border, as 
far north as BoUendorf. A combat com- 
mand of the 9th Armored Division, as yet 
inexperienced, had taken over a narrow 
sector to the left of the 4th on 10 De- 
cember. The second combat command 
of this division, earlier comprising the 
corps reserve, was assigned to V Corps 
and started its march north on 13 De- 
cember. The veteran 28th Infantry Di- 
vision held the corps center, fronting on 
the Our River. The newly arrived and 
green io6th Infantry Division had com- 
pleted the relief of the 2d Infantry Di- 
vision in the Schnee Eifel sector on 12 
December. Here the German West Wall 
turned northeastward following the 
Schnee Eifel crest. In the Losheim Gap, 
at the northern terminus of the Schnee 
Eifel, a light task force of the 14th 
Cavalry Group maintained a screening 
position between the io6th and 99th In- 
fantry Divisions. It should be noted that 
this was the seam between the VIII and 
V Corps. 

Although the VIII Corps forward 
area possessed many terrain features 
favoring the defender, notably the 



56 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



Schnee Eifel on the left wing and the 
river sequence fronting the corps center 
and right, there were numerous points 
of entry for an attack moving east to 
west. The three infantry divisions under 
Middleton's command were responsible 
for a front of about eighty-five miles, a 
distance approximately three times that 
normally assigned an equivalent defend- 
ing force by U.S. service school teaching 
and tactical doctrine. On the morning 
of 16 December the total assigned 
strength of the VIII Corps was 68,822 
officers and men. Immediately after the 
Battle of the Bulge, the tag "a calculated 
risk" would be applied to the attenuated 
VIII Corps front as it existed on 16 De- 
cember. Middleton was well aware of the 
risk— indeed he had made this clear in 
discussions with his superiors. Somewhat 
after the event General Eisenhower 
wrote General of the Army George C. 
Marshall (on 10 January 1945) that in 
early November he and Bradley had dis- 
cussed the possibility of a German coun- 
teroffensive in the Ardennes but had 
agreed that such a move would be un- 
profitable to the enemy. The line of 
reasoning, as set before Marshall, was 
this: the "Volkssturm" would be no good 
in offensive operations, winter in the Ar- 
dennes would render continuous logistic 
support impossible, and Allied strength 
was so great that the Germans could not 
push far enough to reach really vital ob- 
jectives.* 

Whatever thought may have been 
given to the Ardennes, the Allies were 
on the offensive and preparing for yet 
greater offensive operations well to the 
north and the south of the VIII Corps 

"Ltr, Eisenhower to Marshall, lo Jan 45, in 
SHAEF message file, Plans and Operations, folder 



sector. Losses during November had 
been high and the reserve of new divi- 
sions in the United States was running 
low (in the United Kingdom such a re- 
serve no longer existed) . The old mili- 
tary axiom that the line cannot be strong 
everywhere applied with full force to 
the Allied positions reaching from 
Switzerland to the North Sea. Almost 
automatically Allied strength would con- 
centrate in those areas where the offen- 
sive was the order of the day and where 
decision might be reached. The Ar- 
dennes sector seemed no special risk, it 
had been quiet for weeks, it offered— or 
so it seemed— no terrain attraction for 
the enemy, and there was no recogniz- 
able indication that enemy forces oppo- 
site the VIII Corps and ggth Infantry 
Division outnumbered those deployed 
on the friendly side of the line. If there 
was a "calculated risk," therefore, it was 
no more precise or specific than that 
taken wittingly by any commander who 
thins his front to mount an attack while 
knowing that he has over-all superiority 
and the ability to retain the initiative. 

The Intelligence Failure 

In the years that have passed since the 
close of World War II the Ardennes has 
ranked close to Pearl Harbor as an epi- 
sode inviting public polemic, personal 
vituperation, and ex parte vindication. 
Sentences, phrases, and punctuation 
marks from American intelligence docu- 
ments of pre-Ardennes origin have been 
twisted and turned, quoted in and out 
of context, "interpreted" and misinter- 
preted, in arduous efforts to fix blame 
and secure absolution. There no longer 
is point to such intensely personal exam- 
ination of the failure by American and 



PREPARATIONS 



57 



Allied intelligence to give warning of 
the Ardennes counteroffensive prepara- 
tions. The failure was general and can- 
not be attributed to any person or group 
of persons. The intelligence story on the 
eve of the Ardennes is not germane in 
terms of personal opinions or the men 
who held them. What counts are the 
views held at the various American head- 
quarters and the gist of enemy informa- 
tion which reached those headquarters.® 
In mid-September the Western Allies 
had felt imminent victory in their hands. 
Flushed with their own dazzling suc- 
cesses and heartened by news of the 
bloody defeats which the Soviet armies 
were administering to the Germans on 
the Eastern Front, the Allies saw the 
Wehrmacht collapsing and the Third 
Reich tottering to its knees. The per- 
vasive optimism dissipated as the sur- 
prisingly revitalized German armies 
stood their ground in defense of the West 
Wall, but it never completely disap- 
peared. When the Allied attack began to 
roll again in late November and early 
December, some of this earlier optimism 
reappeared. A 12th Army Group intelli- 
gence summary issued on 12 December 
echoes the prevailing tone: "It is now 
certain that attrition is steadily sapping 
the strength of German forces on the 
Western Front and that the crust of de- 
fenses is thinner, more brittle and more 
vulnerable than it appears on our G-2 
maps or to the troops in the line." This 
optimism, particularly when heightened 
by reports that the enemy no longer had 
fuel for tanks and planes, conditioned all 
estimates of the enemy's plans and capa- 



' Pogue, The Supreme Command, pp. 361-72. 
This is the best treatment of the problem of 
personal responsibilities for the various Allied in- 
telligence estimates. 



bilities. It may be phrased this way: the 
enemy can still do something but he 
can't do much; he lacks the men, the 
planes, the tanks, the fuel, and the am- 
munition. 

Another aspect of Allied thinking 
would contribute to the general miscon- 
ception of German capabilities and in- 
tentions. The return of Field Marshal 
von Rundstedt to command in the west 
had been marked with much interest by 
Allied intelligence staffs. Accepted in 
military circles as one of the best soldiers 
in the world, Rundstedt's reputation, 
even among his opponents, rose to new 
stature as the result of the stubborn Ger- 
man defense in the autumn of 1944. 
Here, then, was a commander who 
could be expected to act and react ac- 
cording to the rational and accepted 
canons of the military art. He would 
husband his dwindling resources, at an 
appropriate time he would counterat- 
tack in accordance with available means, 
and ultimately he would fall back to the 
Rhine for the major defensive battle. 
Had Rundstedt actually commanded in 
the west, as the Allies believed, this 
analysis would have been correct. 
(Rundstedt's effort to delimit the scope 
of the Ardennes counteroffensive in or- 
d'pr to achieve a reasonable symbiosis 
between the means and the end proves 
the point.) 

But Hitler alone commanded. Intui- 
tion, not conventional professional judg- 
ment, would determine German action. 
Unaware of the true nature of the 
German decision-making process in the 
west, the Allied commanders and staffs 
awaited an enemy reaction which would 
be rational and therefore predictable. If 
the thought ever occurred to an Allied 
intelligence officer that Germany would 



58 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



gamble on one last great effort west of 
the Rhine, staking everything on a single 
throw of the dice, this idea disappeared 
in the aura of high professional military 
competence which attached to Rund- 
stedt. In a way this may have been the 
field marshal's greatest personal contri- 
bution to the Ardennes counteroffen- 
sive. 

It is impossible to determine the ex- 
tent to which the Hitler cover plan 
deceived the Allies into accepting the 
area north of the Ardennes as the focal 
point for the anticipated German reac- 
tion. Here the Allies were making their 
greatest effort and it was natural to as- 
sume that the German reserves remain- 
ing would be committed to meet this 
effort. Even the U.S. Third Army, far to 
the south, relaxed its normally parochial 
view of the front and predicted that the 
Sixth Panzer Army would be employed 
in a spoiling attack in the Aachen- 
Diiren sector. Here, too, lay the direct 
route to the Ruhr. It long had been an 
article of faith in Allied strategy that 
Germany would make its greatest efforts 
in defense of what Eisenhower had 
called the two hearts of Germany: the 
Ruhr, the industrial heart, and Berlin, 
the political heart. Furthermore, the 
area between the Roer and Rhine 
Rivers represented good tank-going for 
the Allied armored divisions. Duly im- 
pressed with their own armored suc- 
cesses, the Allies expected that the 
enemy would throw his reserve armor 
into battle here in an attempt to prevent 
a repetition of the August tank race 
across France. Perhaps German decep- 
tion did make some confirmatory contri- 
bution, but regardless of this Allied eyes 
were fixed immovably on the front 
north of the Ardennes. 



One item would cause Allied intelli- 
gence some concern, although it seems 
that this concern was more academic 
than real. Where was Rundstedt's ar- 
mored counterattack reserve, the Sixth 
Panzer Army? Allied situation maps of 
early December still carried the head- 
quarters of this army in the vicinity of 
Cologne, and assigned four or five un- 
committed panzer divisions as available 
to this command. But the actual location 
of the Sixth Panzer Army was a matter 
of debate. The 12 th Army Group 
thought that it might be concentrated 
around Bielefeld, northeast of Cologne. 
The U.S. First Army placed it rather 
indefinitely between the Roer and the 
Rhine. The U.S. Third Army plumped 
for a location between Diisseldorf and 
Cologne. The U.S. Ninth Army appar- 
ently did not care to enter this guessing 
game. SHAEF intelligence summed up 
the matter nicely in the report of 10 
December: "There is no further news of 
Sixth SS Panzer Army beyond vague 
rumours." 

There was general agreement that 
Rundstedt's armored reserve would be 
thrown against the First and Ninth 
Armies in an effort to blunt their drive 
in the Roer area, although the severe 
German reverses sustained in the south 
during the second week of December led 
to some thought that divisions might be 
stripped from the Sixth Panzer reserve 
to shore up the defenses of the Palati- 
nate. The two U.S. armies carrying the 
attack in the north were agreed that the 
Sixth Panzer Army would be committed 
after their attack had crossed the Roer 
River. The 12 th Army Group expected 
the same timing and anticipated the 
German reaction would come as a co- 
ordinated counterattack. There was less 



PREPARATIONS 



59 



Allied interest in the Fifth Panzer Army 
than in the Sixth. The former had been 
sorely handled in the fight on the Roer 
front and the appearance of the Fif- 
teenth Army in this sector, identified in 
the second week of December, led to the 
assumption that the Fifth and its most 
badly battered divisions had been with- 
drawn for rest and necessary overhaul. 
On 12 December the 12 th Army Group 
reported the Fifth as assembling its 
weary divisions between Cologne and 
Koblenz. 

American intelligence summaries, 
periodic reports, and briefing precis, for 
the month prior to the 16 December as- 
sault, gave only fragmentary and skeletal 
information on the enemy opposite the 
VIII Corps. German planners had pre- 
dicted that the American high com- 
manders would accept the theory that the 
rugged terrain in this area, particularly 
in poor weather, effectively precluded 
large-scale mechanized operations. Per- 
haps there was some subconscious as- 
sumption by American staffs that the 
Ardennes was so nearly impassable as to 
be ruled out of consideration. But there 
were more tangible reasons for the 
scant attention accorded this sector. It 
had been a quiet sector of the Western 
Front since the Allied dash across France 
had halted in September. The German 
divisions identified here as fairly perma- 
nent residents were battle weary, under- 
strength, and obviously in need of rest 
and refitting. At various times fresh 
divisions had appeared opposite the 
VIII Corps, but their stay had been 
brief. By December it had become axio- 
matic, insofar as U.S. intelligence was 
concerned, that any new division identi- 
fied on the VIII Corps front was no more 
than a bird of passage en route to the 



north or the south. As a result the 
Ardennes assumed a kind of neutral hue 
in American eyes. Important happen- 
ings, it seemed, transpired north of the 
Ardennes and south of the Ardennes, but 
never at the division point itself. This 
mental set offers a partial explanation 
of why the 99th Division in the V Corps 
zone identified only three of the twelve 
German divisions assembling to its 
front, while the VIII Corps identified 
only four out of ten divisions before 16 
December. 

Was there any warning note sounded 
for the VIII Corps and its troops in the 
line during the days just prior to the 
German onslaught? With the advantage 
of hindsight, seven items can be dis- 
cerned in the corps reports for the period 
1 3-1 5 December which might have given 
the alarm. Two divisions, the 28th and 
io6th, sent in reports of increased vehic- 
ular activity on the nights before the 
attack. The 28th discounted its own re- 
port by noting that this was the normal 
accompaniment of an enemy front-line 
relief and that the same thing had hap- 
pened when a German unit had pulled 
out three weeks before. The 106th was 
a green division and unlikely to know 
what weight could be attached legiti- 
mately to such activity. In fact one 
regimental commander rebuked his S-2 
for reporting this noise as "enemy move- 
ment." A third incident occurred on 14 
December when a woman escapee re- 
ported to the 28th Infantry Division 
commander that the woods near Bitburg 
were jammed with German equipment. 
Her answers to questions posed by the 
division G-2 apparently were impres- 
sive enough to gain the attention of the 
VIII Corps G-2 who ordered that she 
be taken to the First Army headquarters. 



60 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



The woman arrived there on 16 Decem- 
ber. 

The four remaining incidents attach 
to the capture of German prisoners on 
15 December, two each by the 4th and 
106th Infantry Divisions. The time of 
capture is important: two at 1830, one 
at 1930, and one at an unspecified time 
thereafter. All four claimed that fresh 
troops were arriving in the line, that a 
big attack was in the offing, that it might 
come on the 16th or 17th but certainly 
would be made before Christmas. Two 
of the prisoners were deserters; they 



themselves did not take the reported 
attack too seriously since, as they told 
their captors, all this had been promised 
German troops before. The other two 
were wounded. One seems to have made 
some impression on the interrogators, 
but since he was under the influence of 
morphine his captors decided that fur- 
ther questioning would be necessary. 

Of the seven incidents which in retro- 
spect may be considered signposts point- 
ing to an impending attack on the VIII 
Corps front, only four were reported to 
the corps headquarters. Three of the 




PkEPARATIONS 



61 



four prisoners seemed to be parroting 
wild and baseless rumors of a sort which 
was fairly common, and these three were 
bundled into prisoner of war cages with- 
out further ado. The incidents reported 
to the VIII Corps were forwarded to 
the First Army and duly noted by that 
headquarters on 14 and 15 December. 
Only one incident was deemed worthy 
of 12 th Army Group attention. This, 
one of the reports of extraordinary traf- 
fic, was mentioned in the commanding 
general's briefing as confirmation of the 
predicted relief of the ^26th Infantry 
Division. This briefing began at 0915 on 
16 December." 

Perhaps the appearance of these seven 
indicators might have been treated in 
combination to uncover the German 
preparations and allow the VIII Corps 
at least a minimum tactical preparation 
for the attack. Whether any commander 
would have been justified in making 
major alterations in his troop disposition 
on the basis of this intelligence alone 
is highly questionable. One might more 
reasonably conclude that the American 
acquisition of only this limited and sus- 
pect information was a tribute to the 
security measures enacted by the enemy. 

What of air intelligence, the source of 
Rundstedt's greatest worry? Bad weather 
during the first half of December did 
reduce the number of Allied reconnais- 
sance sorties flown east of the First Army 
front but by no means produced the kind 
of blackout for which the enemy hoped. 
In the month prior to the Ardennes 
attack the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance 

^° The intelligence sources bearing on the AlHed 
failure to appreciate the coming German counter- 
offensive have been gathered by Royce L. Thomp- 
son in a study entitled American Intelligence on 
the German Counteroffensive, 2 vols. (1949). MS 
in OCMH files. 



Group (IX Tactical Air Command), 
supporting the First Army, flew 361 
missions of which 242 were judged suc- 
cessful. From the 10th through the 15th 
of December the group flew 71 missions 
with varying degrees of success; for ex- 
ample, on 14 December planes flown 
over Trier by the 30th Photo Reconnais- 
sance Squadron reported the weather 
clear, but two hours later a second mis- 
sion ran into haze and was able to see 
very little. Only one day, 13 December, 
in the five critical days before the attack 
found all U.S. air reconnaissance 
grounded." 

The pilots belonging to the 67th 
Group and the 10th Photo Reconnais- 
sance Group, the latter attached to the 
Third Army's old partner, the XIX 
TAC, actually constructed an imposing 
picture of German build-up west of the 
Rhine in the month preceding the Ar- 
dennes counteroffensive. In the last week 
of November the number of enemy 
columns on the roads showed a marked 
increase. On 30 November U.S. recon- 
naissance planes reported a drastic 
heightening of rail activity west of the 
Rhine and this was confirmed by the 
fighter-bombers flying "armed-recce." 
Special indications of forthcoming attack 
were numerous: a large number of hos- 
pital trains on the west bank of the 
Rhine, several groups of flatcars car- 
rying Tiger tanks, and fifty searchlights 
in one location. Lights representing 
large-scale night movements were con- 
sistently reported, although the two 
available night fighter squadrons were 

Royce L. Thompson has compiled a complete 
collection of excerpts from pertinent Air Force 
records bearing on the operations of the U.S. 
Army Air Forces during the Ardennes battle: 
Tactical Air Phase of the Ardennes Campaign, 2 
vols. (1950). MS in OCMH files. 



62 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



so badly understrength (averaging no 
more than ten P-6i's operational) that 
their contribution perforce was limited.^^ 
The intelligence problem presented 
by the U.S. air effort was not that of a 
paucity of information but rather one 
of interpretation. Both the Allied ground 
and air headquarters expected the enemy 
to reinforce those sectors to the north 
and south of the Ardennes where the 
First and Third U.S. Armies were attack- 
ing. The main special indicators of 
coming attack were identified in transit 
areas on the routes to the Roer and the 
Saar. The trainloads of Tiger tanks, for 
example, were seen on the Euskirchen 
rail lines. This line ran northwest to 
Diiren and the Roer, but a branch line 
led south to the Eifel. The reports of 
searchlights, turned in on the night of 
6-7 December, came from the vicinity 
of Kaiserslautern, opposite the Third 
Army. Kaiserslautern, however, was only 
a few miles by rail from Trier, one of 
the chief unloading yards opposite the 
Vin Corps. There was considerable 
information, then, of the enemy's grow- 
ing strength west of the Rhine. But the 
interpretation of his intentions was pre- 
cisely what he desired: reinforcement of 
the Sixth Panzer Army counterattack 
reserve on the Roer front and piecemeal 
movement to shore up the divisions 
being battered by the Third and Seventh 
Armies. 

Was there any special attempt at air 
reconnaissance over the Eifel? A large 
number of missions were flown here in 
November, that is, before the final as- 
sembly for attack began. During the first 
half of December the 67th Group rather 
consistently included Eifel targets in its 

1^ Craven and Gate, eds., Europe: ARGUMENT 
to V-E Day, p. 675. 



daily mission orders; however, these 
missions were given low priority and 
often were scratched. In the critical 
period (lo through 15 December) the 
67 th flew only three missions directly 
opposite the VIII Corps, on 14 Decem- 
ber over Trier. Numerous requests for 
air reconnaissance were made during 
this time by the VIII Corps divisions, 
but even when accepted by higher 
ground echelons and forwarded to air 
headquarters these missions retained so 
low a priority, when contrasted with the 
demands from the Roer and Saar fronts, 
as to fall at the bottom of the missions 
list. In sum, it can be said that the 
reconnaissance flown over the Eifel be- 
between 16 November and 15 December 
gave much information on enemy activ- 
ity, but that this was interpreted as 
routine troop movement through the 
Eifel way-station en route to the north 
and the south. Thus, the SHAEF intel- 
ligence summary of 10 December gives 
air reports of "continuing troop move- 
ments towards the Eifel sector" and con- 
cludes that "the procession is not yet 
ended." 

Could the proper combination of air 
and ground intelligence have weakened 
the Allied fixation on the Roer and Saar 
sectors? Perhaps, but this is extremely 
hypothetical. One thing seems clear. 
Although the ground headquarters were 
charged with the final analysis of photos 
and pilot reports secured by the air, 
there was little co-operation and liaison 
between the air and ground headquar- 
ters as to the initial interpretation placed 
by the air forces on the data gathered 
through aerial reconnaissance. The offi- 
cial U.S. Army Air Forces account of 
this episode states the case justly: "Per- 
haps the chief fault was one of organiza- 



PREPARATIONS 



63 



tion, for there seems to have been a 
twilight zone between air and ground 
headquarters in which the responsibility 
had not been sufficiently pinned 
down." 1^ 

On 15 December the Allied air com- 
manders' conference at SHAEF convened 
to review the big picture. Here the 
SHAEF G-3 told the assembled airmen 
that the Roer dam operations had failed 
to provoke a move by the main enemy 
armored reserve; as for the VIII Corps 
front, "nothing to report." Then the 
A-2 rose to sketch the activities of the 
Luftwaffe: it had continued the move- 
ment westward, closer to the battlefield, 
which had been noted in recent days, 
but all this was "defensive" only. 

The prelude to the Ardennes counter- 
offensive of 16 December can only be 
reckoned as a gross failure by Allied 
ground and air intelligence. One of the 
greatest skills in the practice of the mil- 
itary art is the avoidance of the natural 
tendency to overrate or underestimate 
the enemy. Here, the enemy capability 
for reacting other than to direct Allied 
pressure had been sadly underestimated. 
Americans and British had looked in a 
mirror for the enemy and seen there 
only the reflection of their own in- 
tentions. 

The German Concentration 

Hitler's operation directive of 10 
November set 27 November as the date 
for completion of the huge concentra- 
tion preliminary to the Ardennes coun- 
teroffensive, with a target date two days 
earlier for the' attack by the divisions in 
the initial thrust. But his commanders 



Ibid., p. 681. 



in the west, better versed in logistics, 
recognized from the first that the attack 
could not be made before the very last 
of the month. The Allied attacks in the 
Aachen and Metz sectors made further 
postponement unavoidable, pinning 
German divisions to the front long be- 
yond their planned date of relief and 
bringing others back into the line when 
refitting had only just begun. Inside the 
Greater Reich the Replacement Army, 
charged with creating and training new 
Volks Grenadier divisions for the offen- 
sive, proved Hitler's optimism ill- 
founded. The task of building new divi- 
sions from air force troops, sailors, and 
the products of Goebbel's raid on the 
remaining civilian population was im- 
mense, the timing necessarily slow. In 
early December, when Hitler's target 
date had come and gone, another factor 
intervened to cause delay. The prelim- 
inary movement of armored divisions 
and vehicular columns had burned up 
far more fuel than German quartermas- 
ters had reckoned. The attack would 
have to be delayed until the diminished 
fuel tanks west of the Rhine could be 
replenished. 

The concentration period, therefore, 
would run until 16 December but even 
these added days gave all too short a 
time for such a formidable array of prep- 
arations. The original plans called for 
the movement and assembly of 4 armies, 
11 corps, 38 divisions, 9 Volks artillery 
corps, and 7 Volks Werfer brigades, 
plus service and support troops. By the 
beginning of December OKW's inflated 
order of battle had been reduced to 
about 30 divisions (the Fifteenth Army 
now was deleted from the initial attack 
order, although still envisioned as the 
subsidiary attack force) , but the logistics 



64 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



problem remained of staggering pro- 
portions. 

The area in which the Army Group B 
would concentrate its forces, equipment, 
and supplies was delimited on the south 
by the Moselle River and had as its base 
the Rhine crossings stretching from 
Diisseldorf to Koblenz. On the north 
there were actually two limits. That 
farthest north ran from the Rhine west 
on the axis Miinchen-Gladbach and 
Roermond. South of this line Allied 
intelligence officers watched, as they 
were intended to watch, the daylight, 
only half-disguised, movement of Ger- 
man troops and supplies. Farther south 
a second and true limit defined the main 
concentration area. Here the line ex- 
tended from Bonn, through Euskirchen, 
to the front north of Monschau. The 
trick, then, would be to effect a large 
and secret concentration south of this 
second line while at the same time pre- 
paring to sideslip the forces from the 
north into this sector in the last hours 
before the attack. 

The first problem of organization was 
that of rail transport." Troops, tanks, 
and guns had to be brought from East 
Prussia, Poland, Austria, the Nether- 
lands, Denmark, and Norway. Fuel and 
ammunition had to be hauled across the 
exposed Rhine bridges and unloaded 
quickly and quietly at the Eifel dumps. 
A number of divisions, in particular 
those assigned to the Sixth Panzer Army, 
would have to be shuttled from the 
battle front back across the Rhine to 



"The best study on German rail movements 
and explanation of pertinent German sources will 
be found in Charles V. P. von Luttichau's manu- 
script, German Rail Communications in the 
Ardennes Offensive, 1944-45 ('952)- OCMH. See 
also the OB WEST KTB and Anlage for the sup- 
ply build-up prior to the attack. 



training and refitting areas, then be 
moved across the Rhine again and into 
the concentration zone. 

Probably no railway system in the 
world was better able to handle this 
tremendous task than the Reichsbahn 
(the German State Railroads) . It had 
been modernized on the eve of the war, 
was a model of efficient management, 
and, through a program of systematic 
looting, had more than replaced the 
rolling stock lost to air attack. The cars 
and the locomotives in large freight 
yards, as many American soldiers will 
remember, read like a European rail- 
road gazetteer. Militarization of the 
German railroads was complete. The 
German Army had been the first in his- 
tory to employ railroads for a great 
strategic concentration, and the suc- 
cesses of 1870 had led to a tradition in 
General Staff thought and training 
which looked to the rail system as the 
primary means of strategic concentra- 
tion. The rail lines along the Rhine and 
west of the river had been located in 
accordance with military desires. The 
Eifel branches had been constructed in 
preparation for the First World War, 
then had been reinforced for the cam- 
paign of 1940. But there was more than 
the tradition of the great General Staff 
to dictate this reliance on rail: Hitler's 
scheme for a military superhighway 
system, the Reichsautobahnen, had been 
cut short by the war; the Allied attacks 
against motor fuel production had de- 
pleted German stocks, although hardly 
to the extent that Allied intelligence 
estimated in the autumn of 1944. 

The major threat, of course, was the 
overwhelming superiority of the Allied 
air forces and their ability, no longer 
effectively challenged by the Luftwaffe, 



PREPARATIONS 



65 



to look and to strike almost at will. Ger- 
man railway preparations, as a result, 
had to take count of three dangers: 
Allied air reconnaissance over the Eifel 
and its rail approaches, bombing attacks 
to knock out the Rhine rail bridges, and 
rail-cutting attacks stepped up to the 
point where repair efforts could no 
longer hold the pace. In the short run, 
decisions on the form of the air war 
reached in the higher Allied councils 
during the autumn of 1944 made the 
German task much easier; in the long 
run, these same decisions contributed to 
the final failure of the Ardennes counter- 
offensive. 

British and American air leaders had 
found themselves consistently at logger- 
heads on the issue of transportation 
versus oil targets. The American view 
was that the German rail system con- 
stituted too complex a target to be 
demolished in any reasonable time, 
but that enemy oil production was so 
highly concentrated (particularly in the 
synthetic oil plants) as to permit a kill- 
ing blow in the time and with the effort 
available. Before 16 December the 
American view held first priority. In- 
deed, during the month of October 
second place was accorded to attacks— 
subsequently judged as "rather incon- 
clusive"— against ordnance depots, tank 
assembly plants, and motor vehicle pro- 
duction. Eventually, at the close of Oc- 
tober, the British succeeded in raising 
the priority on rail attacks, although this 
remained second to those on oil. Novem- 
ber was the big month for attacks against 
the latter, the Allied strategic air forces 
dropping 37,096 tons aimed at German 
oil production. In the second half of 
the month, however, the rail campaign 
stepped up; the Eighth Air Force and 



the RAF actually delivered more bombs 
against rail than against oil targets. The 
Rhine bridges presented a special prob- 
lem. In November the SHAEF G-2 
asked that the air mount a campaign to 
cut these bridges, but on this the Amer- 
ican and British air commanders were 
in accord. The great Rhine bridges, 
heavily guarded by flak, were tough 
targets for the bombing techniques then 
current and the Allied air forces suc- 
ceeded in staving off this demand. 

German records, fairly full for the 
final quarter of 1944, give this picture 
of the effects of Allied air attacks. The 
Reichsbahn moved troop strength by 
rail equivalent to sixty-six divisions be- 
fore the attack.i^ Forces equivalent to 
seven divisions were moved by road. 
Twenty-seven of the division-size rail 
movements were affected in some way 
by air attack, in most cases before they 
actually entered the build-up zone. De- 
lays normally were no longer than one 
or two days, although from 1 o December 
on some divisions were forced to march 
an extra fifty to sixty miles on foot. A 
number of units lost essential organic 
equipment during these attacks, the 
deprivation inevitably inhibiting their 
later performance. Very noticeable ef- 
fects of Allied air efforts came on 10 and 
1 1 December. On the first day a noon 
attack over the Koblenz rail yards left 
more than a hundred bomb craters. 
Nonetheless, the yards were in full 
operation twenty-four hours later. The 
main double-track line supporting the 
Sixth Panzer Army assembly (Cologne- 
Euskirchen) was hit so severely as to 
stop all rail traffic on 1 1 December; but 

'° Detailed troop movements have been worked 
out in Luttichau, Rail Communications, ch. VII, 
passim. 



66 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



the line was running again on the 12th. 
Two Rhine rail bridges took hits in 
November and four were under repair 
as the result of attacks during October. 
In all cases at least one rail line per 
bridge remained operable. An Allied 
plane hit one bridge with one bomb 
during the first half of December. Supply 
shipments generally went unscathed in 
the actual concentration area. About 
five hundred trains were employed to 
effect this build-up, of which air attack 
in October and November destroyed 
only fifteen carloads. 

In sum, the greatest menace to the 
German rail concentration came from 
attacks by bombers and fighter-bombers 
against railroad tracks, stations, and 
yards. Hardly a day passed without one 
or more breaks somewhere in the system 
at and west of the Rhine. During the 
first two weeks of December the Allied 
air attacks inflicted 125 breaks on the 
rails feeding the Western Front, 60 of 
which were in the concentration area. 
German engineers, still working on 
November cuts, repaired 150 breaks of 
which 100 were in the concentration 
area. There was, then, an uneasy equi- 
librium between Allied air attacks and 
the German rail repair capability. Be 
it remembered, however, that the Allied 
air campaign against the Reichsbahn 
thus far was dispersed and a matter of 
second priority. 

If nuclear weapons do not succeed in 
entirely removing rail transport from 
the logistic systems of future war, the 
German handling of the Ardennes build- 
up will stand as a nailitary model. As 
a part of military history, the story of 
this German success, achieved despite 
Allied dominance in the air, merits some 
attention. One of Hitler's first concerns. 



following the fateful decision to gamble 
everything on a single stroke in the west, 
was to assure himself that the Rhine 
bridges would be secure and that the 
Reichsbahn could bear the weight he 
intended to impose upon it. Sometime 
during September— an exact date is 
lacking— the OKH Chief of Trans- 
portation, General der Infanterie 
Rudolf Gercke, was admitted to the 
tiny circle of those entrusted with 
the Ardennes plans. His initial task was 
to deal with the Rhine River crossing 
sites; this was the priority through Sep- 
tember and October. First the pillars 
and piers supporting the Rhine bridges 
were reinforced so that a lucky hit could 
not send an entire bridge into the Rhine 
waters. Next, a number of ferries were 
modified to carry trains and a few high- 
way bridges were strengthened for 
tracklaying in the event that the regular 
railroad bridges failed. Special heavy 
spans of military bridging were floated 
into waiting positions along the banks. 
(At one time plans were made to ex- 
pand two mining tunnels which ran 
under the Rhine so that troops could be 
marched from one side to the other.) 
Ruhr industry contributed large stocks 
of steel girders and plates; these stocks 
were then distributed for quick repair 
jobs at the main rail bridges. Early in 
October reinforcement was introduced 
on a number of bridges to permit the 
passage of trains carrying the 70-ton 
King Tiger tanks. By early December 
eight railway bridges were ready imme- 
diately behind the assembly area, plus 
an equal number of highway bridges 
and twelve Rhine ferries capable of 
handling locomotives. An additional 
four rail bridges, lower down on the 
Rhine, were scheduled for use if needed. 



PREPARATIONS 



67 



The Allied decision to forgo any inten- 
sive attacks against the Rhine crossings 
gave this segment of the German rail 
system relative immunity during the 
build-up. The actual trackage and the 
freight yards, particularly those west of 
the Rhine, had no such immunity and 
would come under increasing attack in 
late November just when the concentra- 
tion was swinging into full stride. Almost 
completely bereft of any friendly air 
cover, how did the Germans keep their 
rail transport functioning? Recall that 
the Wehrmacht had been forced to per- 
fect the art of camouflage, that the tra- 
ditionally severe German discipline 
functioned nowhere better than in the 
rigorous control of troop movement, and 
that the Reichsbahn was an integral 
member of the body military. 

The first measure adopted to protect 
military trains from Allied observation 
and attack aimed at the utmost use of 
darkness and bad flying weather. All 
rail movement west of the line Bremen- 
Kassel-Ulm, a distance of 150-200 miles 
from the fighting front, was confined to 
those times when air reconnaissance 
would be stymied. A few exceptions, 
for purposes of deception, were per- 
mitted in the Aachen area. Control was 
decentralized and even the smaller rail 
stations were tied in to the main Ger- 
man weather service so as to wring the 
most mileage out of any local change in 
the weather. Supply trains were organ- 
ized east of the Rhine and there allo- 
cated a particular line and army. Every 
effort was made to load down the branch 
lines, particularly when it became ap- 
parent that the Allies tended to con- 
centrate on the main lines. 

Train movement was very carefully- 
controlled. The thick forests of the Eifel, 



plus an unusual number of rail tunnels 
near the chief supply dumps, gave con- 
siderable chance of concealment. Wher- 
ever possible the run was made to the 
unloading point and back to the west 
bank of the Rhine in one night. On 
double-tracked lines the movement was 
restricted to one-way traffic, then re- 
versed. A host of small stations were 
given extra siding so that trains could be 
stationed serially all along the line and 
unloaded simultaneously. This system 
also permitted quick distribution to the 
many small, concealed dumps. Earlier 
it had been discovered that engine crews 
often were killed by Allied strafing 
while the locomotive remained intact. 
Special light armor plate therefore was 
introduced on all cabs. Also, it had been 
noticed that fighter-bomber pilots 
tended to work on a train at relatively 
high altitudes when subjected to anti- 
aircraft fire. All trains, then, would 
carry a section of light flak. So success- 
ful were these measures that a number 
of divisions actually detrained at rail- 
heads only eight to twenty miles behind 
the front. 

There were four main double-track 
lines running into the Eifel. From 4 
September to 10 December all were 
under the control of the Seventh Army, 
but on 10 December the two panzer 
armies moved in to take command of 
their own sectors. In the north, two 
lines, Cologne-Diiren and Bonn-Euskir- 
chen, handled the bulk of Sixth Panzer 
Army traffic. The Ahr River line, fed 
mainly by the Remagen bridge, sup- 
ported the Fijth Panzer Army. The 
Moselle line, following the old Napole- 
onic "cannon road," handled the Sev- 
enth Army trains plus some traffic for 
the Fifth. Although less rich in rail than 



68 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



areas to the north and south, the Eifel 
possessed a substantial, crisscross net of 
feeder lines. There was one main lateral 
line quite close to the front, that via 
Euskirchen-Kall-Ehrang-Trier. Until 16 
December the main troop detraining 
points were Schleiden, Stadtkyll, Priim, 
Niederweiss, the west station at Trier, 
and Konz. In addition there were four 
chief areas for unloading supplies: 
Rheinbach, Mechernich, Muesch (near 
Ahrdorf) , and Kail. 

The amount of ammunition and POL 
required to support the attack imposed 
a severe load not only upon the dwin- 
dling German war economy but on the 
Eifel rail system as well. Hitler had 
allocated one hundred trains of ammuni- 
tion to nourish the counteroffensive, this 
coming from the special Fuehrer Re- 
serve. Over and above this special re- 
serve, Generalmajor Alfred Toppe, the 
Oberquartermeister, figured on scraping 
together four units of what in German 
practice was considered a basic load. Of 
these units, one was allocated for the 
artillery barrage preparatory to the 
attack, one half would be used in break- 
ing through the enemy main line of 
resistance, and one and a half would be 
fired to keep the offensive rolling. Toppe 
had planned to have two basic loads of 
ammunition in the hands of troops when 
the attack commenced and did deliver 
the loads as scheduled. However, he had 
not counted on the Allied attacks, fur- 
nishing only enough extra ammunition 
for the normal day-to-day battle in the 
west. By the second week of December 
the two basic loads had been whittled 
down to one and a half. Even so, on the 
last day reported— 13 December— ^rm)) 
Group B had 15,099 tons of ammunition 
in its dumps. The heavy concentration 



of antiaircraft artillery scheduled to sup- 
port the attack was better off than the 
ground gunners: the /// Flak Corps, with 
66 heavy and 74 medium and light 
batteries, had 7 basic loads of ammuni- 
tion. In net, the Army Group B logisti- 
cians estimated the attack would average 
a daily ammunition consumption of 
about 1,200 tons. Needless to say this 
figure was based on a fast-moving ex- 
ploitation once the breakthrough was 
accomplished. 

Motor fuel, a notorious logistic prob- 
lem in German armies at this stage of 
the war, was the greatest headache in 
the Western Front headquarters, partic- 
ularly in the last days before the attack. 
The journals of OB WEST are jammed 
during this period with messages 
attempting to trace promised trainloads 
of POL. By 16 December, however, the 
quartermaster and rail systems had com- 
bined to put the promised 4,680,000 
gallons in the hands of OB WEST, 
although perhaps half of this was in 
dumps back at .the Rhine. 

During the period 9 September- 15 
December the Seventh Army, or main, 
concentration area received 1,502 troop 
trains and approximately 500 supply 
trains, most of which were earmarked 
for the counteroffensive. The Eifel rail 
net in this time unloaded 144,735 tons 
of supplies. At some point the Eifel rail 
system would be saturated; this point 
was reached on 17 December when OB 
WEST was forced to detrain its incom- 
ing reserve divisions on the west bank 
of the Rhine, a factor of some signifi- 
cance in the ensuing history of the Ar- 
dennes battle. 

With the Allies hammering at the 
Roer, pushing along the Saar, and con- 
verging on the Saverne Gap, the Arden- 



PREPARATIONS 



69 



nes target date— 25 November— passed 
into discard. On that day Hitler re- 
viewed the situation with his household 
military staff. The enemy offensive, said 
he, had fulfilled the major prerequisites 
for a successful German attack. The 
Allies had taken heavy losses and had 
been forced to deploy their reserves 
close behind the attack front or feed 
them into the line. Now, more than ever, 
the Fuehrer was convinced of the Big 
Solution's feasibility. From somewhere 
in lower echelons the idea had been 
broached that the Meuse crossing sites 
should be seized on the first day. This 
brought hearty concurrence. Advance 
battalions should try for the Meuse 
bridges in the early morning (Hitler 
probably referred here to the end of the 
first 24-hour period). Again Hitler 
stressed the need for penetrations on 
narrow fronts, but once the break- 
through was accomplished he foresaw 
considerable maneuver as the two panzer 
armies hit the Meuse. To ensure flexi- 
bility in the choice of bridgeheads, he 
extended the Sixth Panzer Army zone 
(on the right) to include the crossings 
at Huy, while the Fifth Panzer Army 
southern boundary moved down to 
Givet. It may be that in this same brief- 
ing the Fuehrer set a new D-day. In any 
case Jodl visited Rundstedt on 26 No- 
vember and delivered the news that 
Null Tag (D-day) would be 10 Decem- 
ber. This date finally was scrapped be- 
cause the fuel dumps were not full and 
a number of the assault divisions were 
still en route to the concentration zone. 
On the 11th Hitler approved further 
postponement until 0530 on 15 Decem- 
ber, then on 12 December altered the 
attack order to read the 16th, with the 
usual proviso that if good flying weather 



intervened the whole operation would 
stop dead in its tracks.^^ 

The rail movement of the initial 
attack divisions had nearly ended by 1 1 
December, although the transport of the 
second phase formations, belonging to 
the OKW reserve, still had a few days 
to go.i^ The Seventh Army, quondam 
caretaker on the Ardennes front, had 
most of its divisions in the line but in 
the nights just before the attack would 
have to shift some of these southward 
into the final assembly area designated 
for the Seventh on the attack left wing. 
The Fifth Panzer Army, slated to make 
the attack in the center, had begun its 
concentration in the Remagen-Mayen 
area of the Eifel as early as 26 November, 
but some of its armor was coming from 
as far north as Miinchen-Gladbach— one 
attack division, the 11 6th Panzer, would 
not complete detraining until 16 Decem- 
ber. The Sixth Panzer Army, which in 
Hitler's mind and in OKW plans rep- 
resented the main effort and whose 
four SS panzer divisions were expected 
to pace the entire counteroffensive, by 
6 December had closed its armor in a 
zone stretching from west of Cologne 
to southwest of Bonn. The question 
remained whether the Sixth infantry 
divisions, some of which were in the 
Roer battle line, could be pried loose 
and moved south in time for H-hour. 
The Fifteenth Army, once intended to 
cover the north flank of the Sixth Panzer 

The several postponements of the German D- 
day are described in ETHINT-20, Hitler's Con- 
duct of the War (Rittmeister Dr. Wilhelm 
Scheidt) . 

" The timing at the end of the German con- 
centration is given unit by unit in Luttichau's 
German Rail Communications and in his study 
entitled The Ardennes Offensive, Progressive 
Build-up and Operations, 11-19 December 1944. 
MS in OCMH files. 



70 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



Army advance, had its hands full on the 
Roer front. Here there was no immedi- 
ate assembly problem, although the 
army would have to plug the gaps left 
as divisions pulled out for the Ardennes. 
Ultimately, however, the Fifteenth 
might be reinforced from the OKW re- 
serve and join the attack. If the Fif- 
teenth Army is excluded the German 
attack front extended for 143 kilometers 
(89 miles) . The main armored con- 
centration, however, would take place 
on a frontage of 97 kilometers (61 
miles) . 

The timetable for final assembly in 
attack positions required three days, or 
better, three nights, since nearly all 
movement would be confined to hours 
of darkness. To prevent premature dis- 
closure by some unit wandering into 
the assembly area, all formations except 
those already deployed on the original 
Seventh Army front or immediately 
behind it were banned from crossing 
the Army Group B base line, twelve 
miles behind the front, until the final 
assembly was ordered by Hitler. Once 
across the base line every movement had 
to follow rigid timing. For further con- 
trol the infantry and armored divisions 
were each assigned two sectors for as- 
sembly. Infantry Area I was marked by 
a restraining line six miles from the 
front; Area II extended forward to 
points about two and a half to three 
miles from the front. Armor Area I 
actually was east of the base line which 
served as the forward restraining line; 
Area II was defined by a line six to ten 
miles from the front. The armored 
divisions, of course, would be strung out 
over greater distances than given here 
but their assault echelons would be 
fitted inside the two armored areas. 



Timing was defined by coded days 
from the alphabet. Since O-Tag or D- 
day was in fact 16 December the calen- 
dar dates can be given for what in the 
plan was merely an undated sequence 
of events. On K-Tag (12 December) 
troops were alerted for movement. As 
yet they had no knowledge of the offen- 
sive; they would receive this information 
the night before the attack jumped off. 
By L-Tag (13 December) all units were 
supposed to have their forward detach- 
ments up to the base line; most of them 
did. During the night of 13 December 
the clockwork march to the final attack 
positions began. Those infantry divi- 
sions not already in place moved to the 
forward restraining line of their Area I. 
This also was the night for the guns and 
howitzers belonging to army and VAK 
batteries to move. Using horses from 
the neighboring infantry artillery regi- 
ments, and liberally employing straw to 
muffle the wheels (just as had been done 
in 1918), the batteries were dragged 
into positions about five miles to the 
rear of the ultimate firing emplacements. 
The rocket projectors, easier to camou- 
flage, were hidden immediately behind 
their firing positions. 

On the night of the 14th the infantry 
divisions not already in place marched 
quietly into Area II. Motorized artillery 
went to assigned firing positions while 
low-flying German planes zoomed nois- 
ily over the American listening posts, 
or it was dragged forward by horses. The 
rocket projector crews dug their pieces 
into the pits from which the prepara- 
tion for the attack would be fired. The 
tracked elements of the panzer division 
assault groups churned into Armor Area 
II over roads which only two days earlier 
had been iced completely and along 



PREPARATIONS 



71 



which treacherous stretches remained. 
Wheeled units moved up to the Area I 
restraining line. This armored move- 
ment in the dark of night was difficult 
indeed, but to avoid entanglement each 
panzer division had been given a road 
of its own and in no cases did the dis- 
tance traveled during the two nights 
total more than fifty miles; for most it 
was less. On the night of 15 December 
all formations marched to the line of 
departure or to forward combat posi- 
tions. It would appear that nearly all 
units were in place an hour or two be- 
fore H-hour, 0530 on the morning of 
16 December. 

Although the troops knew nothing of 
their mission until the night of the 15th, 
save what they could surmise, the com- 
manders had been given the picture in 
time to do some individual planning. 
By the end of the first week in Decem- 
ber all corps and division commanders 
knew what was expected of them. Most 
of the division staffs seem to have been 
briefed on 10 December. Hitler re- 
ceived the commanders entrusted with 
the attack in two groups on the nights 
of 1 1 and 1 2 December. Most of the 
visitors seem to have been more im- 
pressed by the Fuehrer's obvious phys- 
ical deterioration and the grim mien of 
the SS guards than by Hitler's rambling 
recital of his deeds for Germany which 
constituted this last "briefing." 

The forces assembled, for the counter- 
offensive were the product of an almost 
psychotic drive by Hitler to put every 
last man, gun, and tank that could be 
stripped from some part of the declining 
German war establishment into the 
attack. Thirteen infantry and seven 

"For the Hitler speeches of ii and 12 Decem- 
ber 1944 see Gilbert, Hitler Directs His War, p. 157. 



armored divisions were ready for the 
initial assault. Five divisions from the 
OKW reserve were on alert or actually 
en route to form the second wave, plus 
one armored and one mechanized bri- 
gade at reinforced strength. Approxi- 
mately five additional divisions were 
listed in the OKW reserve, but their 
availability was highly dubious. Some 
1,900 artillery pieces— including rocket 
projectors— were ready to support the 
attack.^* The seven armored divisions in 
the initial echelon had about 970 tanks 
and armored assault guns. The armored 
and mechanized elements of the immedi- 
ate OKW reserve had another 450 to 
swell the armored attack.^" If and when 
the Fifteenth Army joined in, the total 
force could be counted as twenty-nine 
infantry and twelve armored divisions. 

These divisions and heavy weapons 
might or might not suffice for the task 
at hand, but the total represented the 
best that the Wehrmacht could do. Of 
the armored complement on the West- 
ern Front— 2,567 tanks and assault guns 
—Army Group B and OKW reserve had 
been given 2,168. About a third of this 
latter total would have to be left for 
the time being with the Fifteenth Army 
to shore up the right-wing defenses in 
the Roer sector. Some four hundred 



^' On the German artillery preparations see 
MSS^B-311, Army Group B Artillery, Ardennes 

(General der Artillerie Karl Thoholte); B-347, 
Sixth SS Panzer Army Artillery (Generalleutnant 
Waffen-SS Walter Staudinger); B-759, Sixth Panzer 
Army, 15 December 1944-21 January 1945 

(Staudinger) . 

^ The very difficult task of evaluating and 
reconciling the various tank strengths given in 
individual (and fragmentary) German documents 
has been ably done in Charles V. P. von Luttichau's 
manuscript, Armor in the Ardennes Offensive 

(1952). OCMH. Cf., MS#P-059 (Mueller-Hille- 
brand) and the OB WEST KTB for 16 December 
1944- 



72 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



tanks and assault guns were all that 
remained to German divisions on the 
rest of the long Western Front. The 
hard-pressed armies on the Eastern 
Front likewise had been denied the 
armored materiel to replace their heavy 
autumn losses. At the beginning of De- 
cember the Eastern Front total in opera- 
tional tanks and assault guns was roughly 
1,500.21 Despite Hitler's personal 
emphasis on the power of the artillery 
arm and the very substantial number of 
tubes allocated for the offensive, the 
greatest portion of OB WEST artillery 
had to be left for corsetting where armor 
and infantry had been pulled out, and, 
because of the scarcity of prime movers, 
a large number of batteries scheduled 
for the attack never got forward at all. 
The artillery flak and rocket projector 
support for the entire Western Front 
actually numbered 7,822 pieces on 16 
December. 

As proof that the Western Front's 
armored strength in December 1944 
equaled that of the halcyon days at the 
beginning of the war, Hitler's personal 
staff compiled a special report which 
showed that 2,594 tanks had taken part 
in the victorious 1940 campaign in the 
west. Nobody, it would appear, cared to 
look at comparative figures of air 
strengths in previous campaigns. In the 
Polish campaign some 50 German divi- 
sions had been given direct support by 
1,800 first-line aircraft. The Balkan 
campaign had seen 1,000 aircraft sup- 
porting 17 divisions. The victorious ad- 
vance into the Soviet Union had brought 
123 divisions into the line, with 2,500 
first-line attack planes in the air.^^ Now, 

^ See Luttichau's Armor in the Ardennes Of- 
fensive, Table II. 
^ These figures have been gleaned from various 



for the 25 divisions certain to be com- 
mitted in the Ardennes, Goering could 
promise only a thousand planes. By this 
time Hitler was chary of Luftwaffe prom- 
ises and watered down this figure to 800- 
900 planes when he presented it to OB 
WEST. Hitler's estimate would be met 
—but only for one day and that when 
the ground battle already had been 
decided. 

In December 1944, Germany was 
fighting a "poor man's war" on the 
ground as in the air.^^ This must be 
remembered when assessing the actual 
military potential of the divisions ar- 
rayed for the western offensive. Motor 
transport was in sorry shape; the best- 
equipped divisions had about 80 percent 
of their vehicular tables of equipment, 
but many had only half the amount spec- 
ified in the tables. One of the best mech- 
anized divisions had sixty different types 
of automotive transport. Spare parts, a 
necessity in rough terrain and poor 
weather, hardly existed. There was only 
a handful of prime movers and heavy 
tank retrievers. Signal equipment was 
antiquated, worn-out, and sparse; the 
same held for engineer tools and ve- 
hicles. Antitank guns were scarce, the 
heavy losses in this weapon sustained in 
the summer and autumn disasters having 
never been made good. The German 
infantryman would have to defend him- 
self against the enemy tank with bravery 
and the bazooka, or so the field service 
regulations read. 

German military poverty was nowhere 
more apparent than in the stocks of 
ammunition and POL which had been 



secondary sources and are estimates only. Joint 
Intelligence Survey, Some Weaknesses in German 
Strategy and Organization (1946). 
==MS#P-03ib. 



PREPARATIONS 



73 



laboriously amassed to support the 
attack. The Sixth Panzer Army artillery 
commander, for example, had pleaded 
for twelve to fifteen units of artillery 
ammunition for the first ten days of 
operations.^* On 16 December there were 
only one and a half units with the Army 
Group B guns and only two additional 
units in prospect. Although OB WEST 
appears to have estimated a daily POL 
consumption of 260,000 gallons per day 
for the Ardennes force, a number of the 
higher German quartermasters pre- 
dicted that Army Group B would burn 
four times that amount on each day of 
the operation.^^ The armored divisions 
had in their vehicles and trains enough 
fuel for perhaps 90 to 100 miles of nor- 
mal cruising, but battle in the Ardennes 
could hardly be considered normal tra- 
vel. Though it is a commonplace that 
commanders and supply officers at the 
tactical level always want more shells 
and gasoline than they probably can use, 
there is no question but that the Arden- 
nes counteroffensive began on a logistical 
shoestring. 

On 15 December the intelligence 
staff at Rundstedt's headquarters took 
one last look at the opposite side of the 
hill.^* In the days just previous there 
seems to have been a growing uneasiness 
that the Allies had recognized the im- 
pending attack and begun redeployment 
to meet it. Probably this was no more 
than a nervous reaction to the continued 

" The general problem of artillery and ammu- 
nition is discussed by General Thoholte, the artil- 
lery representative of Army Group B, in MS :ff:B-^ii 
(Thoholte). 

contemporary memorandum on the supply 
and POL status written by a Colonel Poleck is 
found in Schramm's Merkbuch under the date of 
3 January 1945. 

^ The German Intelligence Estimate for 15 Dec- 
ember 1944 is given in OB WEST KTB. 



postponement of D-day, for on the 15th 
the picture was rosy. The U.S. 4th, 28th, 
io6th, and 99th Infantry Divisions and 
their respective boundaries remained un- 
altered. The enemy "lack of interest" 
in this sector was "underlined" by the 
paucity of aerial reconnaissance. The 
only new American division to arrive on 
the Western Front, the 75th, had been 
identified the day before in the Roer 
sector. For several days it had been 
recognized that the U.S. 12th Army 
Group lacked "large operational re- 
serves." Agents working in France had 
reported on 7 December that the Ssd 
and 10 1st Airborne Divisions were as- 
sembled at Mourmelon preparing for 
another airborne operation. These two 
divisions appeared to be the only U.S. 
forces uncommitted. The "rubber duck" 
operation on the VIII Corps front in 
which Special Troops from the 12 th 
Army Group simulated an additional 
division had been reflected for some days 
on German situation maps by a question 
mark. On the 15th, however, OB WEST 
was satisfied that no new division existed 
and the question mark disappeared. 

The 4th and 28th Infantry Divisions 
were known to be exhausted and it was 
doubted that they were up to strength. 
There appeared to be relatively little 
armor opposite the three assault armies, 
probably no more than 370 tanks at the 
maximum. Although restrictions on 
patrolling had limited any recent infor- 
mation on exact tactical locations, there 
existed a complete file carefully built 
up since September. New arrivals on the 
Ardennes front had tended to occupy 
the same positions as their predecessors, 
and on this habit the Germans counted. 
The three communications intelligence 
companies operating under Army Group 



74 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



B were pleased to report that American 
carelessness in the use o£ radio and com- 
mercial telephone nets was up to par, 
and that no reinforcements were en 
route to the Ardennes.^^ 

Across the line intelligence staffs were 
equally placid— although with less rea- 
son. The 12th Army Group G-2 situa- 
tion map of 15 December showed no 
changes. For the sector from the Moselle 
to Monschau only five German divisions 
appeared, with a sixth apparently with- 
drawing from the Eifel. The Sixth Pan- 
zer Army symbol still crowded the dot 
on the map representing Cologne. All 
panzer divisions, except the pth SS and 
the 12th SS^ which bore question marks, 



MS#P-038, German Radio Intelligence (1950). 



remained in locations north of the 
Ei£el.28 

In the German camp there was one 
last hitch. On 1 5 December Model asked 
Rundstedt to postpone the attack, but 
the latter ruled that 0-Tag would be 
as scheduled and so informed Fuehrer 
headquarters. At 1530 an officer named 
Waizenegger telephoned from OKW to 
give Hitler's confirmation of Rundstedt's 
decision; the liaison officers waiting with 
Rundstedt's staff departed for their com- 
mands at once, bearing the attack orders. 
And at midnight on the 15th the officer 
keeping the OB WEST War Diary made 
the last entry of that date: "Tomorrow 
brings the beginning of a new chapter 
in the Campaign In the West." 

This situation map may be found in Thomp- 
son's American Intelligence on the German 
Coun teroff ensive. 



CHAPTER V 



The Sixth Panzer Army Attack 



On the night o£ 15 December German 
company commanders gave their men 
the watchword which had come from 
the Fuehrer himself: "Forward to and 
over the Meuse!" The objective was 
Antwerp. Hitler's concept of the Big 
Solution had prevailed; the enemy was 
not to be beaten east of the Meuse but 
encircled by a turning movement be- 
yond that river. The main effort would 
be made by Dietrich's Sixth Panzer 
Army on the north wing, with orders to 
cross the Meuse on both sides of Liege, 
wheel north, and strike for the Albert 
Canal, fanning out the while to form a 
front extending from Maastricht to 
Antwerp. Meanwhile the infantry divi- 
sions to the rear of the armored columns 
would form the north shoulder of the 
initial advance and a subsequent block- 
ing position east of the Meuse along the 
Vesdre River. Eventually, or so Hitler 
intended, the Fifteenth Army would 
advance to take a station protecting the 
Sixth Panzer Army right and rear. 

Manteuffel's Fifth Panzer Army, ini- 
tially acting as the center, had the mis- 
sion of crossing the Meuse to the south 
of the Sixth, but because the river 
angled away to the southwest might be 
expected to cross a few hours later than 
its armored partner on the right. Once 
across the Meuse, Manteuffel had the 
mission of preventing an Allied counter- 
attack against Dietrich's left and rear by 



holding the line Antwerp-Brussels- 
Namur-Dinant. The left wing of the 
counteroffcnsive, composed of infantry 
and mechanized divisions belonging to 
Brandenberger's Seventh Army, had 
orders to push to the Meuse, unwinding 
a cordon of infantry and artillery facing 
south and southwest, thereafter anchor- 
ing the southern German flank on the 
angle formed by the Semois and the 
Meuse. Also, the Fuehrer had expressed 
the wish that the first segment of the 
Seventh Army cordon be pushed as far 
south as Luxembourg City if possible. 

What course operations were to take 
once Antwerp was captured is none too 
clear.i Indeed no detailed plans existed 
for this phase. There are numerous indi- 
cations that the field commanders did 
not view the Big Solution too seriously 
but fixed their eyes on the seizure of the 
Meuse bridgeheads rather than on the 
capture of Antwerp. Probably Hitler 
had good reason for the final admoni- 
tion, on 1 5 December, that the attack was 
not to begin the northward wheel until 
the Meuse was crossed. 

Dietrich's Sixth Panzer Army, selected 
to make the main effort, had a distinct 
political complexion. Its armored divi- 
sions all belonged to the Waffen SS, its 



' Jodl, while a prisoner at Nuremberg, said that 
once the Antwerp line was reached the subse- 
quent German operations would aim at "neutral- 
izing" the Allied armies to the east. 



76 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OE THE BULGE 



commander was an old party member, 
and when regular Wehrmacht officers 
were assigned to help in the attack prep- 
arations they were transferred to the SS 
rolls. Hitler's early plans speak of the 
Sixth SS Panzer Army, although on 16 
December the army still did not bear 
the SS appellation in any official way, and 
it is clear that the Sixth was accorded 
the responsibility and honor of the main 
effort simply because Hitler felt he could 
depend on the SS. 




General Dietrich 



Josef "Sepp" Dietrich had the appro- 
priate political qualifications to ensure 
Hitler's trust but, on his military record, 
hardly those meriting command of the 
main striking force in the great counter- 
offensive. By profession a butcher, 
Dietrich had learned something of the 
soldier's trade in World War I, rising to 
the rank of sergeant, a rank which at- 
tached to him perpetually in the minds 



of the aristocratic members of the Ger- 
man General Staff. He had accompanied 
Hitler on the march to the Feldherrn- 
halle in 1923 and by 1940 had risen to 
command the Adolf Hitler Division, 
raised from Hitler's bodyguard regi- 
ment, in the western campaign. After 
gaining considerable reputation in 
Russia, Dietrich was brought to the west 
in 1944 and there commanded a corps 
in the great tank battles at Caen. He 
managed to hang onto his reputation 
during the subsequent retreats and 
finally was selected personally by Hitler 
to command the Sixth Panzer Army. Un- 
couth, despised by most of the higher 
officer class, and with no great intelli- 
gence, Dietrich had a deserved reputa- 
tion for bravery and was known as a 
tenacious and driving division and corps 
commander. Whether he could com- 
mand an army remained to be proven. 

The attack front assigned the Sixth 
Panzer Army, Monschau to Krewinkel, 
was narrower than that of its southern 
partner because terrain in this sector 
was poor at the breakthrough points and 
would not offer cross-country tank going 
until the Hohes Venn was passed. The 
initial assault wave consisted of one ar- 
mored and one infantry corps. On the 
south flank the / SS Panzer Corps 
(Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS Her- 
mann Priess) had two armored divisions, 
the I St SS Panzer and the 12th SS Pan- 
zer, plus three infantry divisions, the 
Parachute, the 12th Volks Grenadier, 
and the 2yyth Volks Grenadier. On the 
north flank the LXVII Corps (General 
der Infanterie Otto Hitzfeld) had only 
two infantry divisions, the )26th and 
2/f6th Volks Grenadier. The doctrinal 
question as to whether tanks or infantry 
should take the lead, still moot in Ger- 



THE SIXTH PANZER ARMY 



77 



man military thinking after all the years 
of war, had been raised when Dietrich 
proposed to make the initial break- 
through with his two tank divisions. He 
was overruled by Model, however, and 
the three infantry divisions were given 
the mission of punching a hole on either 
side of Udenbreth. Thereafter the in- 
fantry was to swing aside, moving north- 
west to block the three roads which led 
south from Verviers and onto the route 
the armor would be taking in its dash 
for Liege. Hitzfeld's corps had a less 
ambitious program: to attack on either 
side of Monschau, get across the Miit- 
zenich-Elsenborn road, then turn north 
and west to establish a hard flank on the 
line Simmerath-Eupen-Limburg. All 
five of the Sixth Panzer Army infantry 
divisions ultimately would wind up, or 
so the plan read, forming a shoulder on 
an east-west line from Rotgen (north of 
Monschau) to Liege. Under this flank 
cover the armored divisions of the / 55 
Panzer Corps would roll west, followed 
by the second armored wave, the // 55 
Panzer Corps (General der Waften-SS 
Willi Bittrich) composed of the zd and 
pth 55 Panzer Divisions. 

Dietrich's staff had selected five roads 
to carry the westward advance, the armor 
being assigned priority rights on the four 
southernmost. Actually it was expected 
that the ist 55 and 12th 55 Panzer Divi- 
sions would use only one road each. 
(These two routes ran through the 99th 
Infantry Division sector.) Although the 
planning principle as regards the ar- 
mored divisions was to hold the reins 
loose and let them run as far and as fast 
as they could, the Sixth Panzer did have 
a timetable: one day for penetration and 
breakout, one day to get the armor over 
the Hohes Venn, the Meuse to be 



reached by the evening of the third day, 
and crossings to be secured by 
the fourth.^ 

This army was relatively well 
equipped and trained. Most of its ar- 
mor had been out of combat for some 
time and the horde of replacements had 
some degree of training in night move- 
ment and fighting. The 1st and 2d 55 
had not been loaded with Luftwaffe and 
over-age replacements as had the other 
divisions. The artillery complement of 
the Sixth Panzer Army was very heavy, 
albeit limited in mobility by the paucity 
of self-propelled battalions. The four 
armored divisions had about 500 tanks 
and armored assault guns, including 90 
Tigers (Mark VI) . Lacking were two 
things which would markedly affect the 
operations of the Sixth Panzer Army 
once battle was joined. There w^re few 
trained engineer companies and these 
had little power equipment. The infan- 
try lacked their full complement of as- 
sault guns, a weapon on which the 
German rifle platoon had learned to lean 
in the assault; only the 3d Parachute was 
fully armed with this critical infantry 
weapon.^ 

The 99th Division Sector 

The southern portion of the V Corps 
front was occupied by the 99th Infantry 
Division (Maj. Gen. Walter E. Lauer) , 

^ MS # A-924, Operations of Sixth Panzer Army, 
1944-45 Generalmajor Fritz Kraemer). 

Kraemer was cliief of staff of Sixth Panzer Army. 

"MSS # B-gn (Thoholte) and P-ioga, Ardennes 
Follow Up— 5d SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment 
(Oberstleutant Waflen-SS Guenther Wisliceny) ; see 
also ETHINT-21, Sixth Panzer Army in the Ar- 
dennes Offensive (Generalmajor (WafEen-SS) Fritz 
Kraemer) and ETHINT-61, Tank Maintenance, 
Ardennes (General der Panzertruppen Horst 
Stumpft). 



78 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



which had arrived on the Continent in 
November 1944 and been placed in this 
defensive sector to acquire experience* 
The 99th Division front (left to right) 
extended from Monschau and Hofen to 
the railroad just north of Lanzerath, a 
distance of about nineteen miles. To the 
east lay the Germans in the West Wall 
pillbox line. The frontage assigned an 
untried division at first thought seems 
excessive, but the V Corps commander 
wished to free as much of his striking 
power as possible for use in the sched- 
uled attack to seize the Roer dams; 
furthermore the nature of the terrain 
appeared little likely to at tract a major 



German attack. (Map II) 

In the extreme northern portion of 
the sector, around Hofen, the ground 
was studded with open hills, to the east 
of which lay a section of the Monschau 
Forest. Only a short distance to the 
south of Hofen the lines of the 99th 
entered this forest, continuing to run 
through a long timber belt until the 
boundary between the V and VIII Corps 
was reached at the Losheim Gap. The 



•The records of the ggth Division, for the 
battle described in this chapter, are quite com- 
plete and detailed. Basic documents are; ggth 
Div AAR and G-3 Jnl; AAR's and Unit Jnls of 
the sgjd, 3g4th, and sgsth Inf Regts; 741st Tank 
Bn AAR; AAR's of 639th and 413th AAA Bns; 
254th Engr Combat Bn AAR and Jnl; 801st 
Tank Destroyer Bn AAR; 371st FA Bn AAR; 
and 799th Ord Co AAR. This operation was the 
subject of studies by participants while in Classes 
Nos. 1 and 2, Advanced Infantry Officers Course, 
Fort Benning, Ga. (see especially those by Majors 
Ben W. Legare, J. B. Kemp, and T. J. Gendron 
and Capt. Wesley J. Simmons) . The then com- 
mander of the ggth Division has written the official 
division history; see Major General Walter E. 
Lauer, Battle Babies: The Story of the g^th In- 
fantry Division in World War II (Baton Rouge: 
Military Press of Louisiana, Inc., 1951) . American 
combat interviews are another useful source. 



thick woods in the sector were tangled 
with rocky gorges, little streams, and 
sharp hills. The division supply lines 
began as fairly substantial all-weather 
roads, then dwindled, as they ap- 
proached the forward positions, to 
muddy ruts following the firebreaks and 
logging trails. Except for the open area 
in the neighborhood of Hofen, visibility 
was limited and fields of fire restricted. 
Any clearing operation in the deep 
woods would only give away the Ameri- 
can positions. Although terrain seemed 
equally difficult for defense or offense, 
this balance would exist only so long as 
the defender could retain control over 
his units in the woods and provide some 
sort of cordon to check infiltration. The 
nature of the ground and the length of 
the front made such a cordon impossible; 
the 99th could maintain no more than a 
series of strongpoints, with unoccupied 
and undefended gaps between. 

Three roads were of primary impor- 
tance in and east of the division area. 
In the north a main paved road led from 
Hofen through the Monschau Forest, 
then divided as it emerged on the east- 
ern edge (this fork beyond the forest 
would have some tactical importance) . A 
second road ran laterally behind the 
division center and right wing, leaving 
the Hofen road at the tiny village of 
Wahlerscheid, continuing south through 
the twin hamlets of Rocherath and Krin- 
kelt, then intersecting a main east-west 
road at Biillingen. This paved highway 
entered the division zone from the east 
at Losheimergraben and ran west to 
Malmedy by way of Biillingen and But- 
genbach. As a result, despite the poverty 
of roads inside the forest belt where the 
forward positions of the 99th Division 
lay, the division sector could be entered 



THE SIXTH PANZER ARMY 



79 




Snow Scene Near Krinkelt 



from the east along roads tapping either 
flank. 

From 8 December on the 99th Divi- 
sion had been preparing for its first 
commitment in a large-scale operation, 
repairing roads; laying additional tele- 
phone wire, and shifting its guns for the 
V Corps attack toward the Roer dams. 
In addition a new supply road was con- 
structed from the Krinkelt area to the 
sector held by the 395th Infantry. The 
2d Infantry Division was to pass through 
the 99th, then the latter would attack to 
cover the southern flank of the 2d Divi- 
sion advance. As scheduled, the 2d Divi- 
sion passed through the 99th Division on 
13 December, beginning its attack on a 
narrow front toward Dreiborn, located 



on the northern fork of the Hofen road 
beyond the Monschau Forest. 

The dispositions of the 99th Division 
were these: On the north flank- the 3d 
Battalion, 395th Infantry, occupied the 
Hofen area, with the 38th Cavalry 
Squadron on the left and the 99th 
Reconnaissance Troop on the right. The 
ground here was open and rolling, the 
3d Battalion well dug in and possessed 
of good fields of fire. Next in line to the 
south, the 2d Division was making its 
attack on a thrust line running north- 
eastward, its supply route following the 
section of the Hofen road which ran 
through the forest to the fork. The re- 
maining two battalions of the 395th re- 
sumed the 99th Division front, succeeded 



80 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



to the south, in turn, by the 393d Infan- 
try and the 394th. Conforming to the 
wooded contour, the elements of the 99th 
Division south of the 2d Division attack- 
ing column occupied a slight salient 
bellying out from the flanks. 

Two battalions of the 99th Division 
(the 1st and 3d of the 395th) took part 
in the attack begun on 13 December, 
although other elements of the division 
put on demonstrations to create some 
diversion to their immediate front. The 
2d Battalion, 395th, on the right o£ the 
ad Division jumped off in deep snow and 
bitter cold in an attack intended to swing 
north, wedge through the West Wall 
bunker line, and seize Harperscheid on 
the southern fork of the road beyond the 
forest. The advance on the 13 th went 
well; then, as the attack hit the German 
bunkers and enemy guns and mortars 
ranged in, the pace began to slow. By 
16 December, however, several impor- 
tant positions were in American hands 
and it seemed that a breakthrough was 
in the making despite bad weather, poor 
visibility, and difficult terrain. 

The German troops manning the 
West Wall positions in front of the 2d 
and 99th Divisions had been identified 
prior to the 13 December attack as 
coming from the 277^/1 Folks Grenadier 
Division and the 2p^th Regiment of the 
18th Folks Grenadier Division. An addi- 
tional unit was identified on the second 
day of the offensive when prisoners were 
taken who carried the pay books of the 
j26th Folks Grenadier Division. Al- 
though this was the only indication of 
any German reinforcement, American 
commanders and intelligence officers 
anticipated that a counterattack shortly 
would be made against the shoulders of 
the 2d Division corridor held by the 



99th, but that this would be limited in 
nature and probably no more than regi- 
mental in strength. The immediate and 
natural reaction, therefore, to the Ger- 
man attack launched against the 99th 
Division on the morning of the fourth 
day of the V Corps offensive (16 Decem- 
ber) was that this was no more than the 
anticipated riposte. 

The Initial Attack, 16 December 

To the south of the 393d Infantry, the 
394th (Col. Don Riley) held a defensive 
sector marking the right flank terminus 
for both the 99th Division and V Corps. 
The 6,500-yard front ran along the In- 
ternational Highway from a point west 
of Neuhof, in enemy hands, south to 
Losheimergraben. Nearly the entire line 
lay inside the forest belt. On the right a 
two-mile gap existed between the regi- 
ment and the forward locations of the 
14th Cavalry Group. To patrol this gap 
the regimental I and R Platoon held zn 
outpost on the high ground slightly 
northwest of Lanzerath and overlooking 
the road from that village. Thence 
hourly jeep patrols worked across the gap 
to meet patrols dispatched by the cavalry 
on the other side of the corps boundary. 
Acutely aware of the sensitive nature of 
this southern flank. General Lauer had 
stationed his division reserve (3d Bat- 
talion of the 394th) near the Buchholz 
railroad station in echelon behind the 
right of the two battalions in the line. 

The fateful position of the 394th 
would bring against it the main effort of 
the / SS Panzer Corps and, indeed, that 
of the Sixth Panzer Army. Two roads ran 
obliquely through the regimental area. 
One, a main road, intersected the north- 
south International Highway (and the 



THE SIXTH PANZER ARMY 



81 



forward line held by the 394th) at 
Losheimergraben and continued north- 
westward through Biillingen and But- 
genbach to Malmedy. The other, a 
secondary road but generally passable in 
winter, branched from the International 
Highway north of Lanzerath, and curved 
west through Buchholz, Honsfeid, Schop- 
pen, and Faymonville, roughly parallel- 
ing the main road to the north. 

Of the five westward roads assigned 
the / SS Panzer Corps the two above were 
most important. The main road to Biil- 
lingen and Malmedy would be called 
"C" on the German maps; the secondary 
road would be named "D." These two 
roads had been selected as routes for the 
main armored columns, first for the 
panzer elements of the / SS Panzer 
Corps, then to carry the tank groups of 
the // 5S Panzer Corps composing the 
second wave of the Sixth Panzer Army's 
attack. But since the commitment of ar- 
mored spearheads during the battle to 
break through the American main line 
of resistance had been ruled out, the 
initial German attempt to effect a pene- 
tration would turn on the efforts of the 
three infantry divisions loaned the / 
SS Panzer Corps for this purpose only. 
The 2yyth Volks Grenadier Division, 
aligned opposite the American 393d In- 
fantry, had a mission which would turn 
its attack north of the axis selected for 
the armored advance. Nonetheless, suc- 
cess or failure by the 2j'jth would deter- 
mine the extent to which the tank routes 
might be menaced by American inter- 
vention from the north. The twin towns, 
Rocherath-Krinkelt, for example, com- 
manded the road which cut across— and 
thus could be used to block— the 
Biillingen road, route C. 

The two infantry divisions composing 



the / SS Panzer Corps center and south 
wing were directly charged with open- 
ing the chief armored routes. The 12th 
Volks Grenadier Division, regarded by 
the Sixth Army staff as the best of the 
infantry divisions, had as its axis of at- 
tack the Biillingen road (route C) ; its 
immediate objective was the crossroads 
point of departure for the westward 
highway at Losheimergraben and the 
opening beyond the thick Gerolstein 
Forest section of the woods belt. The ul- 
timate objective for the 12th Division 
attack was the attainment of a line at 
Nidrum and Weywertz, eight airline 
miles beyond the American front, at 
which point the division was to face 
north as part of the infantry cordon cov- 
ering the Sixth Panzer Army flank. The 
Parachute Division, forming the left 
wing in the initial disposition for the at- 
tack, had a zone of advance roughly fol- 
lowing the southern shoulder of the 
Honsfeid or D route. The area selected 
for the breakthrough attempt comprised 
the north half of the U.S. 14th Cavalry 
Group sector and took in most of the gap 
between the cavalry and the 99th Divi- 
sion. In the first hours of the advance, 
then, the Parachute Division would 
be striking against the 14th Cavalry 
Group in the Krewinkel-Berterath area. 
But the final objective of the Para- 
chute attack was ten miles to the north- 
west, the line Schoppen-Eibertingen on 
route D. The jd Parachute axis thus 
extended through the right of the 99th 
Division. 

The decision as to exactly when the 
two panzer divisions would be com- 
mitted in exploitation of the penetra- 
tions achieved by the infantry was a 
matter to be decided by the commanders 
of the Sixth Panzer Army and Army 



82 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



Group B as the attack developed. Ar- 
mored infantry kampfgruppen from the 
i2th SS Panzer Division and ist SS 
Panzer Division were assembled close be- 
hind the infantry divisions, in part as 
reinforcements for the breakthrough 
forces, in part because none of the Volks 
Grenadier units were used to close co- 
operation with armor. 

Considerable reshuffling had been 
needed in the nights prior to 16 Decem- 
ber to bring the / 55 Panzer Corps 
toward its line of departure and to feed 
the infantry into the West Wall positions 
formerly occupied by the 2yyth Division. 
All this was completed by 0400 on the 
morning set for the attack (except for 
the reconnaissance battalion which failed 
to arrive in the 3d Parachute Division 
lines) , and the bulk of the two artillery 
corps and two Volks Werner brigades 
furnishing the artillery reinforcement 
was in position. None of the three army 
assault gun battalions, one for each at- 
tacking division, had yet appeared. The 
German artillery, from the 75-mm. in- 
fantry accompanying howitzers up to the 
2io-mm. heavy battalions, were deployed 
in three groupments, by weight and 
range, charged respectively with direct 
support of the attacking infantry, coun- 
terbattery, and long-distance fire for 
destruction. 

The first thunderclap of the massed 
German guns and Werfers at 0530 on 16 
December was heard by outposts of the 
394th Infantry as "outgoing mail," fire 
from friendly guns, but in a matter of 
minutes the entire regimental area was 
aware that something most unusual had 
occurred. Intelligence reports had lo- 
cated only two horse-drawn artillery 
pieces opposite one of the American line 
battalions; after a bombardment of an 



hour and five minutes the battalion 
executive officer reported, "They sure 
worked those horses to death." But until 
the German infantry were actually 
sighted moving through the trees, the 
American reaction to the searchlights 
and exploding shells was that the enemy 
simply was feinting in answer to the 2d 
and 99th attack up north. In common 
with the rest of the 99th the line troops 
of the 394th had profited by the earlier 
quiet on this front to improve their posi- 
tions by log roofing; so casualties during 
the early morning barrage were few. 

The German infantry delayed in fol- 
lowing up the artillery preparation, 
which ended about 0700. On this part of 
the forest front the enemy line of de- 
parture was inside the woods. The prob- 
lem, then, was to get the attack rolling 
through the undergrowth, American 
barbed wire, and mine fields immedi- 
ately to the German front. The groping 
nature of the attack was enhanced by 
the heavy mist hanging low in the forest. 

The ad Battalion, on the north flank, 
was more directly exposed since a road 
led into the woods position from Neuhof. 
At this point, close to the regimental 
boundary, the battle was carried by a 
fusilier company attached to the g^oth 
Regiment of the 2j'jth Volks Grenadier 
Division. The fusiliers succeeded in 
reaching the 2d Battalion lines about 
0800 but were driven off by small arms 
fire and artillery. 

In midafternoon the 12th 55 Panzer 
Division, waiting for the infantry to 
open the road to the International High- 
way, apparently loaned a few tanks to 
carry the fusiliers into the attack.' Be- 

° The action in this sector has been covered 
by General Priess in MS :^ A-877, Commitment 
o£ the / 5S Panzer Corps During the Ardennes 



THE SIXTH PANZER ARMY 



83 



hind a smoke screen the tanks rolled out 
of Neuhof. An American sergeant 
spotted this move and with a sound- 
powered telephone brought friendly ar- 
tillery into play. High explosive stoppM 
the tanks in their tracks. A few infantry- 
men got through to the forest positions 
occupied by the 2d Battalion. There an 
unknown BAR man atop a log hut 
"raised hell with the Krauts" and the at- 
tack petered out. The ad Battalion, dur- 
ing this day, never was really pressed. The 
chief enemy thrusts had gone to the 
north, where the right flank of the 393d 
Infantry was hit hard by the ijjth Divi- 
sion, and to the south, against the center 
and refused right flank of the 394th. No 
word of events elsewhere on the 394th 
front reached the 2d Battalion command 
post, but the appearance of German in- 
fantry in the woods along the northern 
regimental boundary gave a clue to the 
penetration developing there, and the 
left company of the 2d Battalion was 
pulled back somewhat as flank protec- 
tion. 

The initial enemy action along the 
394th Infantry center and south flank 
was intended to punch holes through 
which the panzer columns might de- 
bouch onto the Biillingen and Honsfeld 
roads. The prominent terrain feature, 
in the first hours of the fight, was a 



Offensive, 16 December 1944-25 January 1945 
(General der Waffen-SS Hermann Priess. Cf. MS 
# P-iogd, Ardennes Follow Up (Oberst der 
Schutzpolizei F. W. Bock) , and MS # B-577, / 
Panzer Corps, 15 October-16 December 1944 
(Oberst der Waffen-SS Rudolf Lehman). These 
are fragments extant of III/SSPz Gr Regt 25, KTB 
Nr. 2, For the story of the 2yyth Folks Grenadier 
Division, see MS # B-273, 2774/2 Folks Grenadier 
Division, November 1944-January 1945 (General- 
major Wilhelm Viebig), and MS # B-465, ^d 
Panzer Grenadier Division, 16-28 December 1944 
(Generalmajor Walter Denkert) . 



branch railroad line which crossed the 
frontier just north of Losheim and then 
twined back and forth, over and under 
the Biillingen-Malmedy highway west- 
ward. During the autumn retreat the 
Germans themselves had destroyed the 
bridge which carried the Biillingen road 
over the railroad tracks north of Los- 
heim. To the west the highway overpass 
on the Lanzerath-Losheimergraben sec- 
tion of the International Highway had 
also been demolished. The crossroads 
at Losheimergrabcn would have to be 
taken if the German tanks were to have 
quick and easy access to the Biillingen 
road, but the approach to Losheimer- 
grabcn, whether from Losheim or Lan- 
zerath, was denied to all but infantry 
until such time as the railroad track 
could be captured and the highway over- 
passes restored. 

The line of track also indicated the 
axis for the advance of the left wing of 
the J2th Folks Grenadier Division and, 
across the lines, marked a general bound- 
ary between the 1st and 3d Battalions of 
the 394th Infantry. When the barrage 
lifted, about 0700, the assault regiments 
of the 1 2th Division already were mov- 
ing toward the American positions. The 
48th Grenadier Regiment, in the north, 
headed through the woods for the 
Losheimergrabcn crossroads. Fallen 
trees, barbed wire, and mines, 
compounded with an almost complete 
ignorance of the forest trails, slowed 
this advance. The attack on the left, 
by the 2jth Fuesilier Regiment, had 
easier going, with much open country 
and a series of draws leading directly 
to the track and the American positions. 

The 3d Battalion (Maj. Norman A. 
Moore) , to the south and west of the 1st 
Battalion position at Losheimergrabcn, 



84 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 




LOSHEIMERGRABEN 



first encountered the enemy. About 0745 
L Company, at the Buchholz station, had 
taken advantage of the lull in the shell- 
ing and was just lining up for breakfast 
when figures were seen approaching 
through the fog, marching along the 
track in a column of two's. First thought 
to be friendly troops, the Germans were 
almost at the station before recognition 
brought on a fusilade of American bul- 
lets. The enemy scattered for the box- 
cars outside the station or sought shelter 
in ditches along the right of way and a 
close-quarters fire fight began. A 3-inch 
tank destroyer systematically worked 
over the cars, while the American mor- 
tar crews raked the area beside the track. 



A few Germans reached the roundhouse 
near the station, but Sgt. Savino Trava- 
lini, leader of the antitank platoon, went 
forward with a bazooka, fired in enough 
rounds to flush the fusiliers, then cut 
them down with his rifle as they broke 
into the open. (Sergeant Travalini was 
awarded a battlefield commission as sec- 
ond lieutenant.) K Company, ordered up 
to reinforce the outnumbered defenders 
at the station, arrived in time to take a 
hand in the affray. By noon the Germans 
had been repelled, leaving behind about 
seventy-five dead; L Company had suf- 
fered twenty-five or thirty casualties. 

As a result of the stubborn stand at 
the station, some of the assault platoons 



THE SIXTH PANZER ARMY 



85 



of the 2yth Fuesilier Regiment circled 
back to the northeast and onto the left 
of the ist Battalion (Lt. Col. Robert H. 
Douglas) . Here one of the battalion 
antitank guns stopped the lead German 
tank and the supporting fusiliers were 
driven back by 81 -mm. mortar fire thick- 
ened by an artillery barrage. The major 
threat in the Losheimergraben sector 
came shortly after noon when the ^8th 
Grenadier Regiment finally completed 
its tortuous approach through the woods, 
mines, and wire, and struck between B 
and C Companies. B Company lost some 
sixty men and was forced back about 400 
yards; then, with the help of the attached 
heavy machine gun platoon, it stiffened 
and held. During the fight Sgt. Eddie 
Dolenc moved his machine gun forward 
to a shell hole which gave a better field of 
fire. When last seen Sergeant Dolenc still 
was firing, a heap of gray-coated bodies 
lying in front of the shell hole.* The C 
Company outposts were driven in, but 
two platoons held their original positions 
throughout the day. Company A beat off 
the German infantry assault when this 
struck its forward platoon; then the 
battalion mortar platoon, raising its 
tubes to an 89-degree angle, rained shells 
on the assault group, leaving some eighty 
grenadiers dead or wounded. 

The early morning attack against the 
right flank of the 394th had given alarm- 
ing indication that the very tenuous con- 
nection with the 14th Cavalry Group 
had been severed and that the southern 
flank of the 99th Division was exposed 
to some depth. The only connecting link, 
the 30-man I and R Platoon of the 394th, 
northwest of Lanzerath, had lost physical 
contact early in the day both with the 

"Sergeant Dolenc was listed as MIA; he was 
awarded the DSC. 



cavalry and with its own regiment. Radio 
communication with the isolated platoon 
continued for some time, and at 1140 
word was relayed to the 99th Division 
command post that the cavalry was pull- 
ing out of Lanzerath— confirmation, if 
such were needed, of the German break- 
through on the right of the 99th. 
Belatedly, the io6th Infantry Division 
reported at 1315 that it could no longer 
maintain contact at the interdivision 
boundary. Less than an hour later the 
radio connection with the I and R Pla- 
toon failed. By this time observers had 
seen strong German forces pouring west 
through the Lanzerath area. (These 
were from the }d Parachute Division.) 
General Lauer's plans for using the 3d 
Battalion, 394th Infantry, as a counter- 
attack force were no longer feasible. The 
3d Battalion, itself under attack, could 
not be committed elsewhere as a unit and 
reverted to its parent regiment. Not long 
after the final report from the I and R 
Platoon, the 3d Battalion was faced to 
the southwest in positions along the 
railroad. 

A check made after dark showed a dis- 
couraging situation in the 394th sector. 
It was true that the 2d Battalion, in the 
north, had not been much affected by 
the day's events— but German troops 
were moving deeper on the left and right 
of the battalion. In the Losheimergraben 
area the 1st Battalion had re-formed in 
a thin and precarious line; the crossroads 
still were denied the enemy. But B 
Company had only twenty men available 
for combat, while the enemy settled 
down in the deserted American foxholes 
only a matter of yards away. Four pla- 
toons had been taken from the 3d Battal- 
ion to reinforce the 1st, leaving the 
former with no more than a hundred 



86 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



men along the railroad line. Farther to 
the west, however, about 125 men of the 
3d Battalion who had been on leave at 
the rest center in Honsfeld formed a 
provisional unit extending somewhat the 
precarious 394th flank position. 

Some help was on the way. General 
Lauer had asked the 2d Division for a 
rifle battalion to man a position which 
the 99th had prepared before the attack 
as a division backstop between Miir- 
ringen and Hiinningen. At 1600 Colonel 
Riley was told that the 394th would be 
reinforced by the 1st Battalion, 23d In- 
fantry, of the 2d Division. During the 
night this fresh rifle battalion, and a 
company each of tanks and tank destroy- 
ers, under the command of Lt. Col. 
John M. Hightower, moved from Elsen- 
born to take up positions south and 
southeast of Hiinningen. Before sunrise, 
17 December, these reinforcements were 
in place. 

During the night of 16—17 December 
the entire infantry reserve in the 99th 
Division zone had been committed in the 
line or close behind it, this backup con- 
sisting of the local reserves of the 99th 
and the entire 23d Infantry, which had 
been left at Elsenborn while its sister 
regiments took part in the 2d Division 
attack to break out in the Wahlerscheid 
sector. The 3d Battalion of the 23d had 
set up a defensive position on a ridge 
northeast of Rocherath, prepared to sup- 
port the 393d Infantry. The 2d Battalion 
had assembled in the late afternoon of 
the 16th approximately a mile and a 
quarter north of Rocherath. The 1st 
Battalion would be at Hiinningen. 
Troops of the 2d Division had continued 
the attack on 16 December, but during 
the afternoon Maj. Gen. Walter M. 
Robertson made plans for a withdrawal. 



if necessary, from the Wahlerscheid 
sector. 

As early as 1100 word of the German 
attacks on the V Corps front had pro- 
duced results at the command post of the 
northern neighbor, the VII Corps. The 
26th Infantry of the uncommitted 1st 
Infantry Division, then placed on a 6- 
hour alert, finally entrucked at midnight 
and started the move south to Camp 
Elsenborn. The transfer of this regi- 
mental combat team to the V Corps 
would have a most important effect on 
the ensuing American defense. 

The First Attacks in the Monschdu- 
Hofen Sector Are Repulsed 
16 December 

The village of Hofen, the anchor point 
for the northern flank of the 99th Divi- 
sion, had considerable importance in 
the attack plans of the German Sixth 
Panzer Army. Located on high ground, 
Hofen overlooked the road center at 
Monschau, just to the north, and thus 
barred entry to the road to Eupen— at 
the moment the headquarters of the V 
Corps. 

For some reason Field Marshal Model 
wished to save the German town of 
Monschau from destruction and had for- 
bidden the use of artillery there."^ The 
plan handed General Hitzfeld for the 
employment of his LXVII Corps (Corps 
Monschau) called for an attack to the 
north and south of Monschau that was 
intended to put two divisions astride the 
Monschau-Eupen road in position to 
check any American reinforcements at- 
tempting a move to the south. The right 
division of the Corps Monschau, the 

''Among his staff it was rumored that Model 
wished to save the historic latticed houses here. 



THE SIXTH PANZER ARMY 



87 



^26th Volks Grenadier Division, had 
been ordered to put all three regiments 
in the initial attack: one to swing north 
of Monschau and seize the village of 
Miitzenich on the Eupen road; one to 
crack the American line south of Mon- 
schau, then drive northwest to the high 
ground on the road just beyond 
Miitzenich; the third to join the 246th 
Volks Grenadier Division drive through 
Hofen and Kalterherberg, the latter 
astride the main road from Monschau 
south to Butgenbach. If all went accord- 
ing to plan, the }26th and 246th would 
continue northwestward along the 
Eupen road until they reached the 
Vesdre River at the outskirts of Eupen.^ 
The force available to Hitzfeld on the 
morning of 16 December for use in the 
Monschau-Hofen sector was consider- 
ably weaker than the 2 -division attack 
planned by the Sixth Panzer Army. In 
the two nights before the attack the 
^26th Volks Grenadier Division had 
moved into the West Wall fortifications 
facing Monschau and Hofen. The 
American attack against the 2yyth Volks 
Grenadier Division at Kesternich, how- 
ever, siphoned off one battalion to rein- 
force the latter division; in addition one 
battalion failed to arrive in line by the 
morning of 16 December. Worse, the 
246th Volks Grenadier Division, sup- 
posed to come south from the Jiilich sec- 
tor, had been held there by American 
attacks. Hitzfeld was thus left with only 



* The account o£ the operations conducted by 
this corps is none too precise: MS ^ B-092, }26th 
Volks Grenadier Division, 16 December 1944-25 
January 1945 (Generalmajor Erwin Kaschner), 
and MS ^ A-937, The Ardennes Offensive, De- 
cember 1944 (General der Intanterie Otto Hitz- 
feld). The AAR's prepared by the 395th Infantry 
and the 38th and load Cavalry Reconnaissance 
Squadrons are quite complete. 



a few indifferent fortress troops on the 
south flank of the ^26th Division. The 
total assault strength in the Hofen- 
Monschau area, as a result, was between 
three and four battalions. Nonetheless, 
Hitzfeld and the 326th commander, 
Generalmajor Erwin Kaschner, could 
count on a heavy weight of artillery fire 
to give momentum to the attack. Two 
artillery corps (possibly totaling ten bat- 
talions) were in position to give fire 
either north or south of the no-fire zone 
at Monschau, plus one or two Volks 
Werfer brigades— a considerable group- 
ment for the support of a division attack 
at this stage of the war. 

The American strength in the Hofen- 
Monschau sector consisted of one rifle 
battalion and a reconnaissance squadron: 
the 3d Battalion, 395th Infantry, under 
Lt. Col. McClernand Butler, in Hofen, 
and the 38th Cavalry Reconnaissance 
Squadron (Lt. Col. Robert E. O'Brien) 
outposting Monschau and deployed to 
the north along the railroad track be- 
tween Miitzenich and Konzen station. 
The infantry at Hofen lay in a foxhole 
line along a thousand-yard front on the 
eastern side of the village, backed up by 
dug-out support positions on which the 
battalion had labored for some six weeks. 
Two nights prior to the German offen- 
sive. Company A of the 612th Tank De- 
stroyer Battalion towed its 3-inch guns 
into the Hofen sector for the purpose of 
getting good firing positions against the 
village of Rohren, northeast of Hofen, 
which lay in the path of the 2d Infantry 
Division attack. The appearance of the 
guns, sited well forward and swathed in 
sheets for protective coloration in the 
falling snow, gave a lift to the infantry, 
who as yet had to fight their first battle. 
To the west the 105-mm. howitzers of 



88 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 




Constructing a Winterized Squad Hut Near the Front Lines 



the 196th Field Artillery Battalion were 
emplaced to give the battalion direct 
support. 

The 38th Cavalry Squadron was 
aligned from Monschau north to Konzen 
station, holding a continuous position 
with fifty dismounted machine guns dug 
in behind mines, barbed wire, and trip 
flares covering the approaches from the 
east. The right flank of the squadron, 
outposting Monschau, was at some dis- 
advantage because of the deep, rocky 
draws leading into and past the town. 
But to the north the terrain was less cut 
up and offered good fields of fire for the 
American weapons posted on the slopes 



west of the railroad track. In addition to 
the assault gun troop in Miitzenich, the 
squadron was reinforced by a platoon of 
self-propelled tank destroyers from the 
893d Tank Destroyer Battalion, which 
was stationed behind the left flank to 
cover a secondary road which entered 
the American position, and the Ggd Ar- 
mored Field Artillery Battalion. On the 
whole the defense in the Monschau- 
Hofen area was well set when the battal- 
ions of the j26th Volks Grenadier Divi- 
sion moved forward to their attack 
positions on the morning of 16 Decem- 
ber. 

The German guns and Werjers 



THE SIXTH PANZER ARMY 



89 



opened a very heavy barrage at 0525, 
rolling over the forward lines, then back 
to the west along the Eupen road, shell- 
ing the American artillery positions and 
cutting telephone wires. Neither the in- 
fantry nor cavalry (gone well to ground) 
suffered much from this fire, heavy 
though it was; but many buildings were 
set afire in Hofen and some were beaten 
to the ground. Monschau, as directed by 
Model, escaped this artillery pounding. 
In twenty minutes or so the German fire 
died away and off to the east the glow of 
searchlights rose as artificial moonlight. 
About 0600 the German grenadiers came 
walking out of the haze in front of the 3d 
Battalion. The wire to the American 
guns was out and during the initial on- 
slaught even radio failed to reach the 
gunners. The riflemen and tank destroy- 
er gunners, however, had the German 
infantry in their sights, without cover 
and at a murderously easy range. 

The result was fantastic. Yet the 
grenadiers who lived long enough came 
right up to the firing line— in three 
verified instances the bodies of Germans 
shot at close range toppled into the fox- 
holes from which the bullets came. A 
few got through and into the village. 
Assault companies of the ist Battalion, 
y^ist Regiment, and the ist Battalion, 
753d Regiment, had made this attack. 
But the support companies of the two 
battalions were blocked out by an in- 
tense concentration of well-aimed 81- 
mm. mortar fire from the American 
heavy weapons company, this curtain 
strengthened within an hour by the sup- 
porting howitzer battalion. By 0745 the 
attack was finished, and in another hour 
some thirty or forty Germans who had 
reached the nearest houses were rounded 
up. Reports of the German dead 



"counted" in front of Hofen vary from 
seventy-five to two hundred. The casual- 
ties suffered by the 3d Battalion in this 
first action were extraordinarily light: 
four killed, seven wounded, and four 
missing. 

At Monschau the ist Battalion of the 
752c? Regiment carried the attack, ap- 
parently aimed at cutting between the 
Monschau and Hofen defenses. As the 
German shellfire lessened, about 0600, 
the cavalry outposts heard troops moving 
along the Rohren road which entered 
Monschau from the southeast. The 
grenadiers were allowed to approach the 
barbed wire at the roadblock, then illu- 
minating mortar shell was fired over the 
Germans and the cavalry opened up with 
every weapon at hand— the light tanks 
doing heavy damage with 37-mm. canis- 
ter. Beaten back in this first assault, the 
German battalion tried again at day- 
light, this time attempting to filter into 
town along a draw a little farther to the 
north. This move was checked quickly. 
No further attack was essayed at Mon- 
schau and a half-hearted attempt at 
Hofen, toward noon, was handily re- 
pelled. As it was, the 326th Volks 
Grenadier Division lost one-fifth of the 
troops put into these attacks. 

To the south of Hofen and Monschau 
in the ad Division and 395th Infantry 
zones, 16 December passed with the 
initiative still in American hands. The 
German attacks delivered north and 
south of the corridor through which the 
Americans were pushing had no immedi- 
ate repercussion, not even in the 395th 
Infantry sector. The Sixth Panzer Army 
drive to make a penetration between 
HoUerath and Krewinkel with the ist 
SS Panzer Corps, therefore, had no con- 
tact with the Monschau Corps in the 



90 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



north, nor was such contact intended in 
the early stages of the move west. The 
German command would pay scant at- 
tention to the small American salient 
projecting between the LXVII Corps 
and the ist SS Panzer Corps, counting on 
the hard-pressed 272^ Volks Grenadier 
Division to hold in the Wahlerscheid- 
Simmerath sector so long as needed. 

The German Effort Continues 
iy—i8 December 

Although hard hit and in serious 
trouble at the end of the first day, par- 
ticularly on the right flank as General 
Lauer saw it, the inexperienced 99th 
Division had acquitted itself in a manner 
calculated to win the reluctant admira- 
tion of the enemy. German losses had 
been high. Where the American lines 
had been penetrated, in the 393d and 
394th sectors, the defenders simply had 
been overwhelmed by superior numbers 
of the enemy who had been able to work 
close in through the dense woods. Most 
important of all, the stanch defense of 
Losheimergraben had denied the wait- 
ing tank columns of the I SS Panzer 
Corps direct and easy entrance to the 
main Biillingen-Malmedy road. 

The initial German failure to wedge 
an opening for armor through the 99th, 
for failure it must be reckoned, was very 
nearly balanced by the clear break- 
through achieved in the 14th Cavalry 
Group sector. The Parachute Divi- 
sion, carrying the left wing of the / SS 
Panzer Corps forward, had followed the 
retreating cavalry through Manderfeld, 
swung north, and by dusk had troops in 
Lanzerath— only two kilometers from 
the 3d Battalion, 394th, position at Buch- 
holz. 



The 12th SS Panzer Division could not 
yet reach the Biillingen road. The ist 
SS Panzer Division stood ready and wait- 
ing to exploit the opening made by the 
}d Parachute Division by an advance via 
Lanzerath onto the Honsfeld road. Dur- 
ing the early evening the advance kampf- 
gruppe of the ist SS Panzer Division, a 
task force built around the ist SS Panz- 
er Regiment (Obersturmbannfuehrer 
Joachim Peiper) , rolled northwest to 
Lanzerath. At midnight— an exception- 
ally dark night— German tanks and in- 
fantry struck suddenly at Buchholz. The 
two platoons of Company K, left there 
when the 3d Battalion stripped its lines 
to reinforce the Losheimergraben de- 
fenders, were engulfed. One man, the 
company radio operator, escaped. Hid- 
den in the cellar of the old battalion 
command post near the railroad station, 
he reported the German search on the 
floor above, then the presence of tanks 
outside the building with swastikas 
painted on their sides. His almost hourly 
reports, relayed through the 1st Battal- 
ion, kept the division headquarters in- 
formed of the German movements. 
About 0500 on 17 December the main 
German column began its march 
through Buchholz. Still at his post, the 
radio operator counted thirty tanks, 
twenty-eight half-tracks filled with Ger- 
man infantry, and long columns of foot 
troops marching by the roadside. All of 
the armored task force of the ist SS 
Panzer Division and a considerable part 
of the ^d Parachute Division were mov- 
ing toward Honsfeld. 

Honsfeld, well in the rear area of the 
99th, was occupied by a variety of troops. 
The provisional unit raised at the divi- 
sion rest camp seems to have been de- 
ployed around the town. Two platoons 



THE SIXTH PANZER ARMY 



91 



of the 801 St Tank Destroyer Battalion 
had been sent in by General Lauer to 
hold the road, and during the night a 
few towed guns from the 61 8th Tank 
Destroyer Battalion were added to the 
defenses. Honsfeld was in the V Corps 
antiaircraft defense belt and two battal- 
ions of 90-mm. antiaircraft guns had 
been sited thereabout. In addition, 
Troop A, 32d Cavalry Reconnaissance 
Squadron, had arrived in Honsfeld late in 
the evening. 

The stream of American traffic mov- 
ing into the village during the night 
probably explains the ease with which 
the Honsfeld garrison was routed. The 
leading German tanks simply joined 
this traffic, and, calmly led by a man 
signaling with a flashlight, rolled down 
the village streets. With German troops 
pouring in from all sides the Americans 
offered no concrete resistance. Though 
some made a fight of it, most engaged in 
a wild scramble to get out of town. Some 
of the tank destroyers were overrun by 
infantry attack through the dark. Guns 
and vehicles, jammed on the exit roads, 
were abandoned; but many of the 
Americans, minus their equipment, 
escaped. 

The predawn seizure of Honsfeld 
opened D route to the spearhead column 
of the 1st SS Panzer Division. Reconnais- 
sance, however, showed that the next 
section of this route, between Honsfeld 
and Schoppen, was in very poor condi- 
tion. Since the 12th SS Panzer Division 
had not yet reached C route, the 
main Biillingen-Malmedy road, Peiper's 
kampfgruppe now turned north in the 
direction of Biillingen with the intention 
of continuing the westward drive on 
pavement. 

At 01 CO on 17 December the 254th 



Engineer Battalion had been attached to 
the 99th Division and ordered to Biil- 
lingen, there to prepare positions cover- 
ing the entrances from the south and 
southeast. Twice during the dark hours 
the engineers beat back German infan- 
try attacks; then, a little after 0700, 
enemy tanks hove into sight. Falling back 
to the shelter of the buildings, the 854th 
did what it could to fend off the tanks. 
Here, in the town, a reconnaissance pla- 
toon of the 644th Tank Destroyer 
Battalion had just arrived with orders 
to establish contact with the enemy 
column, but only one section managed 
to evade the panzers. The rest of the 
platoon were killed or captured. Upon 
receipt of orders from the division, the 
engineers, who had clung stubbornly to 
houses in the west edge, withdrew and 
dug in on higher ground 1,000 yards to 
the northwest so as to block the road to 
Butgenbach. There the two companies 
of the 254th still intact were joined by 
men hastily assembled from the 99th Di- 
vision headquarters, the antiaircraft 
artillery units in the vicinity, and four 
guns from the 61 8th Tank Destroyer 
Battalion. 

To the surprise of the Americans 
gathered along this last thin line the 
Germans did not pursue the attack. By 
1030 a long line of tanks and vehicles 
were seen streaming through Biillingen, 
but they were moving toward the south- 
westl Later, the 99th Division com- 
mander would comment that "the enemy 
had the key to success within his hands, 
but did not know it." And so it must 
have seemed to the Americans on 1 7 De- 
cember when a sharp northward thrust 
from Biillingen would have met little 
opposition and probably would have 
entrapped both the 99th and 8d Divi- 



92 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



sions. In fact, Peiper's column had simply 
made a detour north through Biillingen 
and, having avoided a bad stretch of 
road, now circled back to its prescribed 
route. 

American ground observers, on the 
i^th, attributed the change in direction 
to intervention by friendly fighter- 
bombers, whose attack, so it appeared, 
"diverted" the German column to the 
southwest. Two squadrons of the 366th 
Fighter Group, called into the area to aid 
the 99th Division, made two attacks dur- 
ing the morning. The 389th Squadron 
struck one section of the German col- 
umn, which promptly scattered into 
nearby woods, and claimed a kill of 
thirty tanks and motor vehicles. It is 
doubtful that the Germans were crip- 
pled to any such extent— certainly the 
move west was little delayed— but the 
American troops must have been greatly 
heartened. The 390th Squadron, direct- 
ed onto the column now estimated to be 
two hundred vehicles or more, was in- 
tercepted by a squadron of ME-109's 
which dropped out of the clouds over 
Biillingen. The Americans accounted 
for seven German aircraft, but had to 
jettison most of their bombs. 

Losheimergraben Is Lost 

The lack of highway bridges over the 
railroad south of Losheimergraben had 
turned the first day's battle for the 
Losheimergraben crossroads into an in- 
fantry fight in the surrounding woods. 
Both sides had sustained heavy losses. 
The 48th Grenadier Regiment had 
pushed the 1st Battalion of the 394th 
back, but had failed to break through 
to the tiny collection of customs build- 
ings and houses at the crossroads. By 



daylight on 1*7 December the Americans 
held a fairly continuous but thinly 
manned front with the 1st Battalion 
around Losheimergraben, part of the 3d 
Battalion west of the village, and the 1st 
Battalion of the 23d Infantry holding the 
exposed right-flank position in Hiinnin- 
gen. 

The 12th Folks Grenadier Division^ 
under pressure from higher head- 
quarters to take Losheimergraben, con- 
tinued the attack with both its forward 
regiments, now considerably weakened. 
While the 2yth Fuesilier Regiment 
moved to flank Losheimergraben on the 
west, the 48th Grenadier Regiment 
continued its costly frontal attack. The 
flanking attack was successful: at least 
a battalion of the 2yth drove through 
a gap between the 1st and 3d Bat- 
talions. By 1100 the German infantry 
were able to bring the Losheim-Biillin- 
gen road under small arms fire and the 
noose was tightening on the Losheimer- 
graben defenders. The frontal attack, 
at the latter point, was resumed before 
dawn by enemy patrols trying to find a 
way around the American firing line 
in the woods. 

In a foxhole line 200 yards southeast 
of Losheimergraben, 1st Lt. Dewey 
Flankers had organized about fifty men. 
This small force— men from Companies 
B and C, jeep drivers, and the crew of a 
defunct antiaircraft gun— beat back all 
of the German patrols. But the game was 
nearly up. The enemy Pioneers finally 
threw a bridge over the railroad at the 
demolished overpass on the Losheim 
road, and about 1100 three panzers, sup- 
ported by a rifle company, appeared in 
the woods in front of Flankers' position. 
Lacking ammunition and weapons 
(twenty of the tiny force were armed 



THE SIXTH PANZER ARMY 



93 



only with pistols) , Flankers ordered his 
men back to the customs buildings at the 
crossroads and radioed for help. Car- 
bines, rifles, and ammunition, loaded on 
the only available jeep (the chaplain's) , 
were delivered under fire to the Ameri- 
can "blockhouses." The German tankers, 
unwilling to chance bazooka fire at close 
range, held aloof from the hamlet and 
waited for the German gunners and 
some ME-109's to finish the job. The 
garrison held on in the basements until 
the tanks finally moved in at dusk. Lieu- 
tenant Flankers had been informed in 
the course of the afternoon that neigh- 
boring troops were under orders to with- 
draw. He took the men he had left, now 
only about twenty, and broke through 
the Germans, rejoining what was left 
of the 394th Infantry at Miirringen late 
in the evening. 

Even before the German penetration 
at the Losheimergraben angle, the 394th 
stood in danger of being cut off and 
destroyed piecemeal by the enemy infil- 
trating from the east and south. As part 
of a withdrawal plan put in effect during 
the afternoon for the entire division. 
General Lauer ordered the 394th to 
withdraw to a second defensive position 
at Miirringen, about four kilometers in 
the rear of the regiment's eastern front. 

The 2d Battalion, holding the north 
flank, was under pressure from both 
right and left. At dawn of 17 December, 
the enemy had attacked along the 
Neuhof road with tanks in the van. 
Company E, directly in the path, used its 
bazookas with such good effect that three 
panzers were crippled. Excellent artil- 
lery support and fine shooting by the 
battalion mortars helped discourage any 
further frontal assault. Infiltration on 
the flanks, however, had placed the 2d 



Battalion in serious plight when, at 1400, 
the order came to withdraw west and tie 
in with the 3d Battalion. Leaving a small 
covering force behind, the 2d Battalion 
started on foot through the woods, 
carrying its heavy weapons over the 
rugged and snow-covered trails. The 
Germans also were moving through the 
forest, and the battalion was unable to 
turn toward the 3d as ordered. With- 
drawing deeper into the forest the bat- 
talion bivouacked in the sector known 
as the Honsfelder Wald. The covering 
force, however, made its Way to Miir- 
ringen, where it was set to defend the 
regimental command post. 

The 1st Battalion, in the Losheimer- 
graben sector, had been so splintered by 
incessant German attack that its with- 
drawal was a piecemeal affair. Isolated 
groups fought or dodged their way west. 
Two hundred and sixty officers and men 
made it.® Two platoons from Company K 
which had been attached to the 1st Bat- 
talion did not receive word of the with- 
drawal and held on under heavy shelling 
until ammunition was nearly spent. It 
took these men twenty-four hours to 
wade back through the snow to the regi- 
mental lines. What was left of the 3d 
Battalion also fell back toward Miirrin- 
gen, harassed by groups of the enemy en 
route and uncertain as to what would be 
found at Miirringen. 

The survivors of the 394th Infantry 
now assembling at Miirringen were 
given a brief breathing spell while the 
enemy concentrated on the 1st Battalion, 
23d Infantry, defending the Hiinningen 
positions 1,500 meters to the south. The 
12th Volks Grenadier Division attack 
finally had broken through the American 

' The 1st Battalion of the 394th was accorded 
a Presidential Citation for its role in this battle. 



94 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



line but now was definitely behind sched- 
ule. The 48th Regiment, having been 
much reduced in strength in the fight 
around Losheimergraben, re-formed on 
the high ground between the forest edge 
and Miirringen. The north flank of the 
regiment lay exposed to counterattack, 
for the 2yyth Folks Grenadier Division 
on the right had been checked in its at- 
tempt to take the twin villages, Krinkelt- 
Rocherath. The fight now devolved on 
the 2yth Regiment, which was ordered 
to take Hiinningen before an attempt to 
roll up the American south flank. 

Colonel Hightower's 1st Battalion was 
in a difficult and exposed position at 
Hiinningen. His main strength, de- 
ployed to counter German pressure from 
the Buchholz-Honsfeld area, faced south 
and southeast, but the German columns 
taking the Honsfeld-Biillingen detour 
were moving toward the northwest and 
thus behind the Hiinningen defenders. 
Whether any part of this latter enemy 
force would turn against the rear of the 
1st Battalion was the question. 

Through the morning the 1st Battal- 
ion watched through breaks in the fog as 
tanks and vehicles rolled toward BiiUin- 
gen. Visibility, poor as it was, made ar- 
tillery adjustment on the road difficult 
and ineffective. Shortly after noon about 
120 men who had been cut off from the 
2d and 254th Engineer Battalions 
arrived at Hightower's command post 
and were dispatched to form a roadblock 
against a possible attack from Biillingen. 

Somewhat earlier twelve Mark IV 
tanks had appeared south of Hiinningen 
—perhaps by design, perhaps by acci- 
dent. Assembled at the wood's edge some 
800 yards from the American foxhole 
line, the panzers may have been seeking 
haven from the American fighter- 



bombers then working over the road. In 
any case they were shooting-gallery 
targets. One of the towed 3-inch guns 
which the 801st Tank Destroyer Battal- 
ion had withdrawn during the early 
morning debacle at Honsfeld knocked 
out four of the panzers in six shots. The 
rest withdrew in haste. 

At 1600 the enemy made his first defi- 
nite assault, preceded by six minutes of 
furious shelling. When the artillery 
ceased, German infantry were seen 
coming forward through a neck of woods 
pointing toward the southeastern edge 
of Hiinningen. A forward observer with 
Company B, facing the woods, climbed 
into the church steeple and brought 
down shellfire which kept pace with the 
attackers until they were within a hun- 
dred yards of the American foxholes. A 
number of the enemy did break through, 
but the assault evaporated when nearly 
fifty were killed by four men manning 
automatic weapons from a platoon com- 
mand post just in the rear of the firing 
line. The commander of the 2yth 
Regiment sent forward seven "distinct 
attacking waves" in the course of the 
afternoon and early evening. In one as- 
sault the Germans captured two heavy 
machine guns and turned them on Com- 
pany A, but a light machine gun section 
wiped out the German crews. At no 
time, despite numerous penetrations in 
the 1st Battalion line, was the enemy 
able to get Hiinningen into his hands.^" 
Late in the afternoon an indistinct 
radio message was picked up by the 1st 
Battalion, 23d Infantry. It appeared that 
the battalion now was attached to the 
gth Infantry (2d Division) , to the north, 
and that orders were to pull out of Hiin- 

" Colonel Hightower was awarded the DSC for 
his conduct of the defense. 



THE SIXTH PANZER ARMY 



95 



ningen. Up to this point, the 394th 
Infantry was still in Miirringen, gather- 
ing its companies and platoons as they 
straggled in. Furthermore the 1st Bat- 
talion was in a fire fight with an enemy 
only a few score yards distant in the 
darkness. Colonel Hightower, therefore, 
tried by radio to apprise the gth Infantry 
of his predicament and the importance of 
holding until the 394th could reorganize. 
At 2330 Colonel Hirschf elder, the gth 
Infantry commander, reached High- 
tower by radio, told him that 
Hightower's battalion and the 394th 
Infantry were almost surrounded and 
that, if the battalion expected to with- 
draw, it must move at once. Colonel 
Hightower again explained his situation, 
said that in his opinion he could not pull 
out unless and until the 394th withdrew, 
but that he would discuss the situation 
with the commander of the 394th. 
Hirschf elder agreed and told Hightower 
to use his own judgment. 

At Miirringen Colonel Riley's 394th 
had not been hard pressed although the 
German artillery had shown no favori- 
tism and hammered Miirringen and 
Hiinningen equally. The groups filter- 
ing back to Miirringen, however, gener- 
ally had very little ammunition left, 
even though many detachments came 
back with all their heavy weapons. If the 
394th was to make a stand at Miirringen 
it would have to be resupplied. At first 
Colonel Riley hoped to get ammunition 
by air, for it appeared that the German 
drive in the Krinkelt area to the north 
shortly would cut the last remaining 
supply road. This was a vain hope for 
aerial supply missions in December were 
far too chancy. The alternative solution 
was for the 394th to withdraw north to 
Krinkelt, using the one route still open. 



The German Attack Toward Rocherath 
and Krinkelt, 16-1'] December 

The 393d Infantry (Lt. Col. Jean D. 
Scott) had taken no part in the V Corps 
offensive of 13 December except to put 
on a "demonstration" in front of the 
West Wall positions. The regiment, 
minus its 2d Battalion (attached to the 
395th Infantry) , was deployed along the 
German frontier, a line generally 
defined by the eastern edge of the long 
forest belt in which the bulk of the 99th 
Division was stationed and the Inter- 
national Highway. The width of the 
front, held by the 3d Battalion on the 
left and the 1st Battalion on the right, 
was about 5,500 yards. Outposts on the 
regimental left lay only a few score yards 
from the West Wall bunkers, but the 
right was more than half a mile from 
the German lines. About four miles by 
trail behind the 393d, the twin villages 
of Rocherath and Krinkelt lay astride 
the main north-south road through the 
division area. In front of the 393d, across 
the frontier, were entrances to the two 
forest roads which ran through the 
regimental sector, one in the north at 
Hollerath, the second in the south at 
Udenbreth. Both villages were in enemy 
hands. At the western edge of the 
woods the roads converged, funneling 
along a single track into Rocherath- 
Krinkelt. The twin villages, therefore, 
had a tactical importance of the first or- 
der. Through them passed the main line 
of communications in the 2d Division 
corridor, and from them ran the supply 
route to the 393d Infantry and the 395th. 

In the West Wall bunkers facing the 
393d lay the ijjth V'olks Grenadier Di- 
vision (Col. Hans Viebig) . Recon- 
structed in Hungary from the remnants 



96 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



of an infantry division of the same num- 
ber which had escaped from the Falaise 
pocket, the 2'j'jth arrived in the west 
during early November. In the days be- 
fore the counteroffensive the division 
screened the entire front behind which 
the / SS Panzer Corps was assembling, 
but on the evening of 15 December, 
while two new infantry divisions moved 
into the line, the 2'j'jth assembled on the 
north flank of the corps zone between 
HoUerath and Udenbreth. One rein- 
forced battalion, on the far southern 
flank of the original sector, was unable 
to reach the division line of departure 
in time to join the attack. 

The / SS Panzer Corps commander 
had decided to put the weight of his 
armored thrust to the south and thus 
avoid entanglement with the American 
force which, it was thought, could be 
gathered quickly on the Elsenborn ridge 
in the northern sector of the zone of ad- 
vance. But the Elsenborn area had to be 
neutralized, if for no other reason than 
to erase the American artillery group- 
ment located there. The 2jjth Volks 
Grenadier Division had the task of 
making the penetration on the right 
wing of the corps and driving obliquely 
northwest to take the Elsenborn ridge. 
As finally prescribed by the corps com- 
mander, the phases of the attack planned 
for the 2jjth were these: to break 
through the American line and open the 
forest roads to Rocherath and Krinkelt; 
capture these twin villages; seize the 
Elsenborn area and block any American 
advance from Verviers. The division 
commander had received this mission 
with qualms, pointing out that the 
wooded and broken terrain favored the 
Americans and that without sufficient 
rifle strength for a quick breakthrough. 



success in the attack could only be won 
by very strong artillery support. But his 
orders stood. On the night of 15-16 
December the p8pth Regiment as- 
sembled near HoUerath, its objective 
Rocherath. To the south the ppoth 
occupied the West Wall pillboxes near 
Udenbreth, poised for an attack to seize 
Krinkelt. 

The artillery, Werfer, and mortar fire 
crashing into the American positions on 
the morning of 16 December gave 
the attacking German infantry the start 
the 2'jjth commander had requested. 
The concentration thoroughly wrecked 
the American telephone lines which had 
been carefully strung from battalion to 
company command posts; in some cases 
radio communication failed at the same 
time. This preparatory bombardment 
continued until 0700. 

The north wing of the 393d, held by 
the 3d Battalion (Lt. Col. Jack G. Allen), 
lay in the woods close to the German 
pillboxes from which the assault wave 
of the p8pth, guided by searchlights 
beamed on the American positions, 
moved in on the Americans before they 
had recovered from the shelling. In the 
first rush all of Company K, save one 
platoon, were killed or captured. By 
0855, when telephone lines were re- 
stored and the first word of the 3d Bat- 
talion's plight reached the regimental 
command post, the enemy had advanced 
nearly three-quarters of a mile beyond 
the American lines along the forest road 
from HoUerath. Colonel Allen stripped 
the reserve platoons from the balance of 
the 3d Battalion line in a futile attempt 
to block the onrush, but by 0930 the 
Germans had reached the battalion 
command post, around which Allen 
ordered Companies I and L to gather. 



THE SIXTH PANZER ARMY 



97 



At this point the 81 -mm. mortar crews 
laid down such a successful defensive 
barrage (firing over 1,200 rounds in the 
course of the fight) that the attackers 
swerved from this area of danger and 
continued to the west. By nightfall the 
forward companies of the ^8^th were at 
the Jansbach creek, halfway through the 
forest, but had been slowed down by 
troops switched from the left wing of the 
3d Battalion and had lost many prisoners 
to the Americans. The 3d Battalion 
radio had functioned badly during the 
fight and contact with the 370th Field 
Artillery Battalion, supporting the 3d, 
was not established till the close of day. 
Despite the penetration between the 3d 
and 1st Battalions and the large number 
of enemy now to the rear and across the 
battalion supply road. Colonel Allen re- 
ported that the 3d could hold on during 
the night. His supply road had been cut 
in midafternoon, but Company I of the 
394th had fought its way in with a supply 
of ammunition. 

On the south the 1st Battalion (Maj. 
Matthew L. Legler) likewise had been 
outnumbered and hard hit. Here the 
ppoth Regiment had assembled in Uden- 
breth during the dark hours and, when 
the barrage fire lifted at 0700, began 
an advance toward the 1st Battalion. The 
German assault companies, however, 
failed to get across the half mile of open 
ground before dawn and were checked 
short of the woods by mortar and ma- 
chine gun fire. The commander of the 
2yyth Volks Grenadier Division at once 
decided to throw in his reserve, the ppist 
Regiment, to spring the ppoth loose. 
Sheer weight of numbers now carried 
the German attack across the open space 
and into the woods— but with high cas- 
ualties amongst the riflemen and the 



officers and noncoms herding the assault 
waves forward. By 0830 the Germans 
had nearly surrounded Company C, on 
the 1st Battalion right. An hour later, 
the ppist Regiment, attacking southwest 
from Ramscheid, knocked out the light 
machine guns and mortars in the Com- 
pany B sector (on the left) with bazooka 
fire and captured or killed all but one 
platoon. Company A (Capt. Joseph 
Jameson) , which had been in reserve, 
counterattacked in support of what was 
left of Company B and by noon had dug 
in on a line only 300 yards behind the 
original line. Here Company A held 
for the rest of the day against repeated 
enemy attacks and constant artillery 
fire with what the regimental after 
action report characterized as "heroic 
action on the part of all men." In this 
fight friendly artillery played an impor- 
tant role. The surviving Company B 
platoon had retained an observation 
post overlooking the treeless draw along 
which reinforcements moved from Uden- 
breth and despite the German fire a 
telephone wire was run forward to this 
command post. The American gunners 
quickly made this avenue suicidal; 
through the afternoon cries from the 
wounded Germans lying in the draw 
floated back to the American line. 

Company C on the 1st Battalion right 
had slowly succumbed to the weight of 
numbers; by 1015 two of its platoons 
had been engulfed. There was little that 
the regiment could do in response to 
Major Legler's plea for assistance, but 
at 1030 the mine-laying platoon from 
the regimental antitank company ar- 
rived to give a hand. This small detach- 
ment (26 riflemen plus 13 runners and 
cooks) , led by Lt. Harry Parker, made 
a bayonet charge to reach the remaining 



98 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



Company C platoon and set up a new 
line of defense on the battalion right 
flank. A gap still remained between the 
battalion and the 394th Infantry farther 
south. 

By the end of the day the 393d Infan- 
try had restored a front facing the 
enemy.ii But the new line could hardly 
be called solid, the rifle strength remain- 
ing was too slim for that. The 1st Battal- 
ion had lost over half of its effective 
strength; the 3d Battalion had its right 
bent back for several hundred yards and 
had lost nearly three hundred men. The 
enemy wandered almost at will through 
the woods, firing into foxholes, shooting 
off flares, and calling out in English to 
trap the unwary. But even with the 
German strength apparent on all sides, 
the American situation seemed to be 
improving. Reinforcements, requested 
by General Lauer, had arrived from the 
2d Division during the late afternoon, 
the supply roads might be restored to 
traffic when daylight came again, and 
the losses inflicted on the attacker were 
obvious and heartening. 

The breakthrough on the south flank 
of the 99th Division, during 17 Decem- 
ber, was paralleled that day by a strong 
German armored thrust into the division 
center. The 393d, whose left battalion 
had been driven back into the deep 
woods during the first day's attack, was 
under orders to counterattack and re- 
store its original line. The 3d Battalion 
was close to being surrounded, and in 



"Pfc. R. D. Smith and Pfc. Angelo Cestoni 
were awarded the DSC for bravery in the fight by 
the 393d Infantry. It should be added that the 
forward observers of the 370th Field Artillery 
Battalion, which was supporting the infantrymen 
of the 393d, also distinguished themselves and 



order to recover its eastern position at 
the wood line it would have to reopen 
the battalion supply road. At 0800 
Colonel Allen's tired and weakened 
battalion attacked to the west and drove 
the enemy off the road, but when the 
eastward counterattack started it 
collided with a battalion of German 
infantry. For half an hour Germans and 
Americans fought for a hundred-yard- 
wide strip of the woods. Then, about 
1000, the German armor took a hand. 

The failure by the 2yyth Volks Gren- 
adier Division to clear the woods and 
reach Krinkelt-Rocherath on 16 Decem- 
ber had led to some change of plan. 
The right flank, roughly opposite the 
3d Battalion sector, was reinforced by 
switching the ppoth Regiment to the 
north to follow the p8gth Regiment. 
More important, the 12th SS Panzer 
Division (which now had come up on 
the left of the 2yyth) parceled out some 
of its tanks to give weight to the infantry 
attack by the right wing of the 2yyth 
Volks Grenadier Division. 

The first tank entered the forest road 
from Hollerath, rolled to within ma- 
chine gun range of the Americans, 
stopped, then for twenty minutes me- 
thodically spewed bullet fire. Attempts 
to get a hit by artillery fire were futile, 
although the American shelling momen- 
tarily dispersed the accompanying infan- 
try and permitted a bazooka team to 
wreck one track. But even when crippled 
the single tank succeeded in immobiliz- 
ing the American infantry. Four more 
enemy tanks appeared. One was knocked 
out by a bazooka round, but the rest 
worked forward along the network of 

two, 1st Lt. G. W. Jackman and 2d Lt. W. D. 
Markin, received the DSC, Lieutenant Markin 
posthumously. 



THE SIXTH PANZER ARMY 



99 



firebreaks and trails.^^ The combination 
of tanks and numerous infantry now 
threatened to erase the entire 3d Battal- 
ion position. Ammunition had run low 
and the 3d Battalion casualties could not 
be evacuated. 

About 1030 Colonel Scott ordered the 
3d Battalion, 393d Infantry, as well as 
its southern neighbor (the 1st) , to re- 
move to new positions about one and 
a half miles east of Rocherath. This 
would be done by withdrawing the 3d 
Battalion through the 3d Battalion, 23d 
Infantry (the reinforcements sent by 
Robertson) , which had dug in some 
thousand yards to its rear. All the vehi- 
cles available to the forward troops 
were filled with wounded. Fifteen 
wounded men, most too badly hurt to 
be moved, were left behind, together 
with the 3d Battalion surgeon, Capt. 
Frederick J. Mclntyre, and some enlisted 
aid men. By noon the entire battalion 
had pulled out (disengaging without 
much difficulty) ; it passed through the 
3d Battalion, 23d Infantry, and two 
hours later was on the new position. 
Allen's battalion had fought almost con- 
tinuously since the early morning of the 
16th; then at full strength, it now was 
reduced to 475 men and all but two 
machine guns were gone. 

The 1st Battalion of the 393d Infantry 
had not been hard pressed during the 
morning of 17 December because the 
German forces in its area had been con- 
tent to move through the gap on the 
right, between the 393d and 394th. 
Ordered to withdraw about 1100, the 
battalion was in position alongside 

^' The action at this point devolved on Sgt. 
Vernon McGarity and his squad. For outstanding 
heroism McGarity was awarded the Medal of 
Honor. 



the 3d Battalion, 23d Infantry, by 1400, 
the two now forming a narrow front 
east of the twin villages. 

The 3d Battalion, 23d Infantry (Lt. 
Col. Paul V. Tuttle, Jr.), had been 
rushed to the western edge of the woods 
on the afternoon of the 16th for use as 
a counterattack force. The hard-hitting 
German attack against the 3d Battalion, 
393d, on the following morning so dras- 
tically changed the situation that Colo- 
nel Tuttle's orders were altered to: 
"hold at all costs." His battalion was 
none too well prepared for such defense, 
having arrived with no mines and very 
little ammunition. Trucks bringing am- 
munition forward found the road be- 
tween Biillingen and Krinkelt barred by 
the enemy and never reached the battal- 
ion. 

Shortly after the troops from the 393d 
passed through the battalion, Company 
I, on the open left flank, heard the clank- 
ing of tank treads. A few minutes later 
German tanks with marching infantry 
clustered around them struck the left 
platoon of Company I, rolling forward 
till their machine guns enfiladed the 
foxholes in which the American infantry 
crouched. Company I held until its am- 
munition was nearly gone, then tried 
to withdraw to a nearby firebreak but 
went to pieces under fire raking it from 
all directions.i^ Company K, in line to the 
south, next was hit. The company started 
an orderly withdrawal, except for the 
left platoon which had lost its leader 
and never got the order to pull back. 
This platoon stayed in its foxholes until 
the tanks had ground past, then rose to 

"The gallant attempt by Pfc, Richard E. Cowan 
singlehandedly to cover the Company I retreat 
was recognized by the award of the Medal of 
Honor. 



100 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 




engage the German infantry. The pla- 
toon was wiped out. 

A medium tank platoon from the 
741st Tank Battalion, loaned by Robert- 
son, had arrived in the 3d Battalion area 
during the night. Lt. Victor L. Miller, 
the platoon leader, took two tanks to 
cover a forest crossroads near the Com- 
pany K position. In a duel at close quar- 
ters the American tanks destroyed two 
panzers, but in turn were knocked out 
and Lieutenant Miller was killed. 

Parts of Company K held stubbornly 
together, fighting from tree to tree, with- 
drawing slowly westward. For courage in 
this fight, Pfc. Jose M. Lopez, machine 



gunner, was awarded the Medal of 
Honor. This rear guard action, for the 
company was covering what was left of 
the battalion, went on until twilight. 
Then, as the survivors started to cross 
an open field, they were bracketed by 
artillery and Werfer fire and scattered. 
(Later the battalion would be given the 
Distinguished Unit Citation.) Company 
L, on the inner flank, had been given 
time for an orderly retreat; eighty or 
ninety men reached Krinkelt. 

The 3d Battalion of the 393d had 
barely started to dig in behind the 3d 
Battalion, 23d Infantry, when the first 
stragglers came back with word of the 



THE SIXTH PANZER ARMY 



101 



German assault. Colonel Allen moved 
his spent battalion to a hastily organized 
position 500 yards to the northwest and 
prepared to make another stand. The 
main force of the German attack, how- 
ever, had angled away while rolling over 
the flank of the forward battalion. About 
this time the 3d Battalion, 393d, met a 
patrol from the 1st Battalion, gth Infan- 
try, which had been rushed to the 
Rocherath area to cover the 2d Division 
withdrawal south from Wahlerscheid, 
and the two battalions joined forces. 

The retreat of the 3d Battalion, 23d 
Infantry, left its right-flank neighbor, 
the 1st Battalion, 393d Infantry, com- 
pletely isolated.^* Telephone lines long 
since had been destroyed, and radio 
communication had failed. In late after- 
noon Major Legler decided to withdraw 
but hearing that the sd Battalion of the 
394th was to tie in on his right reversed 
his decision. About dark, however, the 
Germans struck in force and the rifle 
companies pulled back closer together. 
Because the battalion supply road was 
already in German hands, Legler and 
his men struck out across country on the 
morning of the 18th, taking a few vehi- 
cles and those of the wounded who could 
be moved. The main body reached 
Wirzfeld but the rear guard became 
separated, finally joining other Ameri- 
cans in the fight raging around Krinkelt. 
The 1st Battalion by this time numbered 
around two hundred men. 

The 39$th Infantry Conforms 
to the Withdrawal 

The 395th Infantry, which had sup- 

"Lt. Col. Paul V. Tuttle, Jr., for his able 
handling of the withdrawal by the 3d Battalion, 
was awarded the DSC. 



ported the 2d Infantry Division attack 
in the Wahlerscheid sector, was little 
affected on the i6th and the morning 
of the 17th by the German power drive 
against the rest of the 99th Division. In- 
formation reaching the 395th command 
post was sparse and contradictory; both 
the 2d Division and the 395th still as- 
sumed that the battle raging to the south 
was an answer to the American threat 
at Wahlerscheid, where the 2d Division 
had made a sizable dent in the West 
Wall by evening of 16 December.^^ 

All this time a chain reaction was mov- 
ing slowly from the menaced southern 
flank of the 99th northward. It reached 
the 395th before noon on 17 December 
with word that the 324th Engineer Bat- 
talion, stationed between that regiment 
and the 393d, was moving back to the 
west. Actually the engineers had not yet 
withdrawn but had moved to make con- 
tact with and cover the exposed flank 
of the 395th, this apparently on General 
Lauer's orders while the 395th was tak- 
ing orders from Robertson. The with- 
drawal of the 2d Infantry Division to 
the Rocherath area resulted in the attach- 
ment of the 395th (reinforced by the 
2d Battalion of the 393d) to General 
Robertson's division. Now the battalions 
were ordered to blow up all of the pill- 
boxes taken in the advance. Finally, at 
1600, Col. Alexander J. Mackenzie re- 
ceived a retirement order given by Gen- 
eral Lauer or General Robertson, which 
one is uncertain. The plan was this. The 
two battalions of the 395th and the at- 
tached battalion from the 393d would 
fall back toward the regimental com- 
mand post at Rocherath. From this 

'"For details of the Wahlerscheid attacks, see 
MacDonald, The Siegfried Line Campaign, pp. 
606-10. 



102 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



point the regiment would deploy to 
cover the road leading out of Rocherath 
to the north and northeast, the road 
which the 2d Infantry Division was 
using in its march south from the 
Wahlerscheid battlefield. 

The ist Battalion reached Rocherath 
and on General Robertson's orders en- 
trenched on both sides of the road north 
of the village. Heavy weapons were drag- 
ged through the deep mud and were 
placed to cover the road. The other two 
battalions dug in along a perimeter 
which faced east from Rocherath and 
the Wahlerscheid road. So emplaced, the 
395th waited for the enemy to come 
pouring through the woods onto the 2d 
Division route of withdrawal. 

On the opposite side of the 2d Divi- 
sion corridor, in the Hofen area, the 
enemy made no serious move on 17 
December to repeat the disastrous attack 
of the previous day. The immediate ob- 
jective of the ^26th Folks Grenadier 
Division remained the high ground 
northwest of Monschau near Miitzenich. 
General Kaschner apparently decided on 
17 December to make his bid for a break- 
through directly in this sector and to 
abandon momentarily the attempt to 
force a penetration between Monschau 
and Hofen. 

About 0400 on 17 December the 38th 
Cavalry Squadron outposts north of 
Monschau heard enemy troops moving 
along the draw running west from Men- 
zerath. Quick and accurate response by 
American batteries ended this move. 
Three hours later the German batteries 
opened up, shelling the thin line of 
troopers deployed along the railroad cut 
north of Monschau. When the guns and 
Werfers ceased, a wave of German in- 
fantry headed for the railroad tracks. 



They were checked by machine gun fire, 
but more Germans appeared, extending 
the assault front from the north edge of 
Monschau to the hill beyond Miitzenich. 
American fire power— artillery, tank de- 
stroyers, tank guns, and the numerous 
machine guns— stopped the first attack. 
But by 0900 the enemy had succeeded 
in gathering a battalion on the north 
flank, poised against the Troop B front 
3,400 yards along the railroad line east 
of Miitzenich Hill. In short rushes the 
enemy filtered into the Troop B area. 
Even the Luftwaffe took a hand; at least 
two squadrons made strafing runs over 
the cavalry positions. Although some 
Germans broke through the thin cavalry 
line, a sharp shelling administered by 
the 62d Field Artillery Battalion stopped 
the main support troops short of the rail- 
road. More Germans could be seen as- 
sembling in Imgenbroich, but friendly 
aircraft were on the way to help the 
cavalry. Gunners from the 62d marked 
the village with red smoke and the 
fighter-bombers went in bombing and 
strafing. This ended the daylight phase 
of the fray. Company A of the 47th In- 
fantry, which regiment was en route to 
the sector from Eupen, had appeared in 
time to help hunt down the Germans 
who had got through the cavalry line. 
Despite prisoner reports that the j26th 
would throw in a regimental attack 
during the afternoon, quiet reigned. 
The 47th Infantry arrived at Miitzenich 
and bivouacked astride the Eupen road 
—the immediate threat was ended. The 
38th Squadron could report a count of 
two hundred German dead in front of 
its lines. The ^26th Folks Grenadier 
Division was finding its position at the 
pivot of the Sixth Panzer Army offensive 
a costly one. 



THE SIXTH PANZER ARMY 



103 



The 2d Division Gives Up the 
Wahlerscheid Attack 

On the night of 16—17 December the 
enemy counterattacked at Wahlerscheid. 
Actually the number of enemy troops 
available for use against the 2d Division 
was very small, too few for any telling 
maneuver out of the West Wall position. 
The bulk of the 272^ Folks Grenadier 
Division, holding the sector, had been 
thrown in to stop the American 78 th 
Division farther north. The jzSth 
Folks Grenadier Division was already 
engaged in a costly attempt to penetrate 
the American lines at Monschau and 
Hofen. As a result the defense at the 
Wahlerscheid road junction had been 
conducted on a catch-as-catch-can basis 
by troops farmed out for brief periods 
prior to commitment in the counter- 
offensive. On 15 December, for example, 
elements of the ppoth Regiment (zyyth 
Folks Grenadier Division) were relieved 
by a reinforced battalion of the y$ist 
Regiment (^26th Folks Grenadier Divi- 
sion) , which, during the night of 15-16 
December, was in the process of being 
relieved by the Replacement Battalion 
of the j26th. By coincidence the 2d Di- 
vision attack on the night prior to the 
16th engaged and detained troops which 
both the 2y:jth and }26th expected to use 
elsewhere on the first day of the counter- 
offensive. 

On the afternoon of 16 December Maj. 
Gen. Leonard T. Gerow, commanding 
the V Corps, concluded from the frag- 
mentary reports coming out of the main 
battle area that the 2d Infantry Division 
might soon find itself in a difficult sit- 
uation. He asked the First Army com- 
mander, General Hodges, for permission 
to call off the attack at Wahlerscheid and 




General Gerow 



move the 2d Division to the natural de- 
fensive line offered by the ridge run- 
ning north and south of Elsenborn. This 
was refused. Late in the evening the 
deputy corps commander (Maj. Gen. 
Clarence R. Huebner) cautioned Gen- 
eral Robertson to keep the unengaged 
troops of his division in hand for a quick 
change of plan, despite the order to con- 
tinue the attack.!" By this time the three 
battalions of the gth Infantry and two 
of the .38th were committed. On the 



"The 2d Division attack and subsequent fight- 
ing withdrawal are very well covered in combat 
interviews. In this chapter the following after 
action reports and journals have been used: 2d 
Div; gth, 23d, and 38th Infantry Regiments; the 
2d Div Hq Commandant. The 644th Tank De- 
stroyer Bn. Army Ground Forces Report No. 559 
(26 January 1945) is useful. The published ma- 
terials, History of the . Fifteenth Field Artillery 
Battalion in the European Theater of Operations 
and D plus 106 to V-E: The Story of the 2d 
Division (n.d.n.p.), are of little value. 



104 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



morning of the counterofEensive's second 
day, with the American position in the 
99th Division and VIII Corps sector rap- 
idly deteriorating, Gerow renewed his 
request. The First Army commander 
was unwilling to give orders for a with- 
drawal but authorized the V Corps com- 
mander to act as he saw fit. Gerow 
phoned Robertson; it was now about 
0730. 

For the first time the 2d Division com- 
mander learned that the enemy had 
broken through the 99th and that his 
own division was in danger of being 
cut off. Gerow's order was to set up a 
defensive position on the Elsenborn 
ridge— but first the 2d Division had to 
withdraw from the exposed Wahler- 
scheid sector. The immediate task con- 
fronting Robertson was that of 
gathering what troops he could to de- 
fend the single road back through 
Krinkelt-Rocherath to Wirtzfeld, while 
at the same time holding open the one- 
track road between Wirtzfeld and El- 
senborn. Two-thirds of his reserve, the 
23d Infantry, would be attached to the 
99th Division. The rifle strength of the 
two regiments around Wahlerscheid had 
been reduced by nearly 1,200 men. The 
1st Battalion of the gth Infantry, for 
example, had begun the Wahlerscheid 
attack on 13 December with 35 officers 
and 678 men; on the morning of 17 
December the active roster was 22 officers 
and 387 men. All of the original com- 
pany commanders and most of the pla- 
toon leaders were casualties. Fortunately, 
the tank and tank destroyer strength at- 



" The 2(1 Division engineers had worked on 
this secondary road until it offered a fairly passable 
single track. 



tached to support the 2d Division attack 
had been held in reserve well to the 
south in order to prevent a jam on 
the single communicating road during 
the infantry phase of the operation and 
so constituted a readily available reserve. 
But the appearance of German armor 
early on 17 December would force some 
piecemeal distribution to meet this 
threat. 

Even before the withdrawal order 
reached the 2d Division command post 
at Wirtzfeld on the morning of the 17 th, 
German tanks had been spotted moving 
on Biillingen, the main division supply 
point. General Robertson ordered the 
headquarters commandant to prepare a 
defense at the division command post 
(a few hundred yards north of Biillin- 
gen) and sent his only free rifle battal- 
ion, the 2d of the 23d Infantry, south 
from the Rocherath area. After the cap- 
ture of Biillingen the German column 
turned away to the southwest, but a re- 
connaissance party composed of a tank 
platoon and a few riflemen in half-tracks 
continued in the direction of Wirtzfeld. 
They had been anticipated by only a few 
minutes with the arrival of a self-pro- 
pelled gun platoon from C Company of 
the 644th Tank Destroyer Battalion. 
When the Germans reached the ridge 
south of Wirtzfeld they were momen- 
tarily profiled against the sky line. 
Two of the American tank destroyers 
and a 57-mm. gun accounted for three 
of the panzers and a half-track. For the 
time being the threat to the southern 
terminus of the 2d Division line of with- 
drawal was ended. The 2d Battalion, 23d 
Infantry, and additional tank destroyers 
from the 644th soon arrived and de- 
ployed in the deep snow south of Wirtz- 
feld on the slope facing Biillingen, there 



THE SIXTH PANZER ARMY 



105 



to watch the ist SS Panzer Regiment as 
it filed southwest. 

The jg^th Infantry Abandons the 
Milrringen Position 

East of German-held Biillingen the 
American troops in MUrringen faced en- 
circlement, occupying as they did a pre- 
carious and jutting angle between the 
defense forming on the evening of 17 
December around the twin villages and 
the southern shoulder bracing at But- 
genbach. The sole road remaining for 
withdrawal to the Elsenborn assembly 
area ran back through Krinkelt, the 
southernmost of the twin villages, whose 
tenure by friendly troops was none too 
certain on the night of the 17th. The 
chances for a successful withdrawal from 
Miirringen were dwindling by the hour. 

The 371st Field Artillery Battalion, 
which had been firing in support of the 
394th from battery positions close by, 
was out of ammunition. Colonel 
Riley, the regimental commander, re- 
ported this to General Lauer at 0115 
on the 18th, adding that he recom- 
mended "withdrawal." The division 
commander at once sent a radio message 
back: "Withdraw arty. Your order. Your 
time." Apparently Lauer expected that 
the 394th Infantry and Hightower's bat- 
talion from the 23d Infantry would send 
off the guns and then consolidate with 
the Krinkelt defenders. About this time 
Hightower arrived at Riley's command 
post and told him of his conversation 
with Colonel Hirschfelder. Hightower 
had just talked with one of his ambu- 
lance drivers who had come back from 
Wirtzfeld via the road through Krinkelt 
and said he could guide the vehicles out. 
Colonel Riley now decided to evade the 



closing jaws of the German trap by mov- 
ing out through Krinkelt and retiring, 
if possible, to Elsenborn. The ambulance 
driver would join the head of the column 
and Hightower's trucks would fall in be- 
hind the vehicles of the 394th. 

Shortly after midnight the remnants 
of the 394th Infantry at Miirringen 
formed in two columns, one composed 
of foot troops, the other made up of the 
remaining vehicles. Colonel Riley 
started the motor column, which in- 
cluded Hightower's vehicles, along the 
road toward Krinkelt at 0215, a road 
beaten by hostile shellfire. Near Krin- 
kelt, whence came the sound of heavy 
firing, the column halted while scouts 
moved toward the houses at the edge of 
the village. Here German tanks were 
seen, and so orders were passed along to 
abandon the vehicles and move west on 
foot to Elsenborn. The infantry column 
started a quarter of an hour after the 
vehicles, marching quietly toward Krin- 
kelt along a tree-covered draw, carrying 
only helmets, overcoats, rifles, and am- 
munition. Debouching onto the road 
south of Krinkelt, the infantry found it 
lined with deserted trucks and jeeps. 
After some indecision the infantry 
manned a few of the empty vehicles— 
by this time it had been ascertained that 
the 2d Infantry Division had at least 
partial control of Krinkelt— and edged 
their way through the village and out 
the Wirtzfeld road. Most of the men 
from Miirringen reached Elsenborn 
during the 18th. The 371st Field Ar- 
tillery Battalion, which had displaced 
closer to Krinkelt during the night, 
failed to get its heavy equipment out of 
the snow when a second move was 
ordered at daylight, and all but five 
howitzers were abandoned. 



106 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



There remains to account for the 
394th's 2d Battalion, which had been 
cut off from the regiment while in the 
Honsf elder Wald, and the 1st Battalion 
of the 23d, attached to the 394th and 
holding Hiinningen, the southernmost 
position left to the 2d and 99th Divi- 
sions. In the Honsfelder Wald the 2d 
Battalion of the 394th met the 1st Bat- 
talion of the 393d; both were out of com- 
munication with their parent regiments 
and neither knew the location of neigh- 
boring units. Jointly deciding to with- 
draw further to the west, the two units 
began their march at daylight on the 
18th. Diverted by the sound of intense 
firing in the direction of Krinkelt, they 
marched toward Miirringen. 

Almost in the shadow of the houses 
the force got a hostile reception: the 
Germans had moved in on the heels of 
the 394th. At this critical juncture radio 
contact was made with a friendly unit, 
probably the 2d Division, and in answer 
to the plea for help American shells be- 
gan exploding in the village. Between 
the confusion and the morning fog, the 
Americans were able to break away, 
turning this time toward Wirtzfeld. They 
carried as many of their wounded as 
they could, but some of the wounded had 
to be left behind in the care of two aid 
men. En route to Wirtzfeld the group 
suddenly was brought under fire by the 
2d Division artillery, a number of casu- 
alties resulting. At this point the men 
nearly panicked, but order was restored 
while a squad leader raced ahead to a 
friendly outpost and stopped the shell- 



ing. Most of the weary, hungry troops 
reached Elsenborn during the early 
hours of 19 December. Capt. Robert 
McGee, S-3 of the 2d Battalion, 394th, 
had brought out about 570 officers and 
men. The 1st Battalion, 393d, which had 
been badly hurt in the first two days of 
the fight, was less fortunate. Fewer than 
300 of its officers and men were left. 

The 1st Battalion, 23d Infantry, at 
Hiinningen, it will be recalled, had re- 
ceived radio orders late on the 17th 
which put it under the command of the 
9th Infantry. Colonel Hightower's bat- 
talion was closely engaged, for the Ger- 
mans had filtered through at a number 
of points, and when the order came to 
withdraw from the village the battalion 
had to fight its way free. Company B, 
most exposed, was under assault even as 
the withdrawal began. A platoon leader 
was wounded in front of the foxhole 
line; two aid men tried to reach him and 
were killed. A third reached the side of 
the fallen officer, then both were killed. 
The 3d Platoon, whose radio was gone, 
had no word as to the time when the 
battalion was pulling back. Runners who 
tried to reach the platoon were killed or 
captured, and this part of Company B 
was lost. Most of the badly depleted 1st 
Battalion withdrew in accordance with 
an earlier plan along a secondary road 
via Miirringen which had been scouted 
by the battalion medical officer, the ve- 
hicles following the 394th and the men 
on foot marching cross-country to Wirtz- 
feld. 



CHAPTER VI 



The German Northern Shoulder 
Is Jammed 



The 2d Division Withdraws 

General Robertson's plan for moving 
his 3d Division south was to "skin the 
cat," pulling the most advanced bat- 
talions in the Wahlerscheid sector back 
through the others. In addition to the 
main supply road, a part of the division 
could use the secondary route running 
more or less parallel to the Wahler- 
scheid road until the two met at a fork 
about a m ile north of Rocherath, (See 
Map II.) The 395th Infantry was in the 
woods east of the northernmost section 
of the 3d Division withdrawal route and 
would provide cover for the first stage 
of the tricky move parallel to and close 
behind the rapidly deteriorating front. 
Then too the enemy at the Wahlerscheid 
road junction seemed hardly strong or 
aggressive enough to make even a day- 
light disengagement difficult. 

The danger zone would be the twin 
villages. Roads from the east led into 
Rocherath and Krinkelt. And, to the 
east, as information from the 99th Divi- 
sion rifle battalions warned, the Ger- 
mans had made a deep penetration and 
were liable at any moment to come 
bursting out of the forest. Rocherath and 
Krinkelt had to be held if the 3d Divi- 
sion was to reach the Elsenborn position 
intact and with its heavy weapons and 



vehicles. The 99th Division had long 
since thrown its last reserve into the 
battle; therefore the 3d Division (with 
the attached 395th) alone had to provide 
for the defense of this endangered sec- 
tor of the corridor south. 

The 3d Division commander assigned 
responsibility to his officers as follows.^ 
Col. Chester J. Hirschf elder, command- 
ing the 9th Infantry, was charged with 
the actual withdrawal from Wahler- 
scheid. The assistant division com- 
mander. Col. John H. Stokes, Jr., took 
over the defense of Rocherath. Col. 
Philip D. Ginder, assigned to the divi- 
sion as a spare regimental commander, 
was given the task of establishing a 
blocking position southeast of Wirtzfeld 
—the village at which the 3d Division 
would have to turn toward Elsenborn. 
General Robertson himself would spend 
the crucial hours of the 17th working up 
and down the Rocherath road, gathering 
additional troops where he could, inter- 
vening to change the disposition of 
battalions and even companies as the 
complexion of the battle altered. 

The men turning south were con- 
cerned with a fight for their lives. Some 
units of the division would be able to 



1 General Robertson, however, maintained per- 
sonal control of the battle and was in the thick 
of the fight. He received the DSC. 



108 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 




occupy their assigned positions and en- 
trench before the enemy struck. Others 
would have to attack in order to take 
their designated place in the new line of 
resistance. Meanwhile the rumor that 
American prisoners were being butch- 
ered in cold blood by SS troops was 
spreading like wildfire through the 2d 
Division, a partial explanation of the 
bitter fight finally made at the twin 
villages. 

Robertson's order, "withdraw at 
once," reached the gth Infantry a little 
after 1000. By 1 100 the 2d Battalion had 
assembled and started south, with the 3d 
and 1st Battalions forming in that order 
to complete the column. The withdrawal 
from the front lines, shielded by a heavy 
barrage laid on the West Wall positions, 
was accomplished readily but of course 
took much time. The 1st Battalion, 



bringing up the rear of the gth Infantry 
column, did not set out until 1415. 

Before the five battalions at Wahler- 
scheid commenced to disengage. General 
Robertson marched his only reserve, the 
3d Battalion of the 38th Infantry, south 
through Rocherath and Krinkelt. At this 
time in the morning the imminent Ger- 
man threat was in the area north of 
Biillingen. For this reason Robertson 
placed the 3d Battalion (-) at the south- 
ern edge of Krinkelt, where, by 1130, it 
was entrenched. One rifle company, plus 
the antitank and service companies, took 
positions around Rocherath guarding the 
roads entering the village from the north 
and east. 

The redeployment of the 2d Division 
had a double aim: securing a firm hold 
on Wirtzfeld, essential to the control of 
the road net in the final phase of the 



THE GERMAN NORTHERN SHOULDER IS JAMMED 



109 



move to Elsenborn, and defending Krin- 
kelt and Rocherath until such time as 
both the 2d and 99th Divisions could be 
withdrawn to the Elsenborn ridge. The 
9th Infantry, leading the move, was to 
concentrate the bulk of its troops around 
Wirtzfeld; the 38th, to build up a de- 
fensive line at Krinkelt-Rocherath as its 
battalions arrived. Before dark the 2d 
Battalion of the 9th Infantry had tra- 
versed the seven and a half miles of con- 
gested and shell-torn road, deploying 
south of Wirtzfeld in line with the 2d 
Battalion of the 23d Infantry. The 5d 
Battalion, next in the 9th Infantry col- 
umn, arrived after dark and dug in be- 
tween the two battalions already south 
of Wirtzfeld. En route the 2d Division 
commander had detached Company K 
and sent it posthaste to the line forming 
northeast of Rocherath and to the rear 
of the fragmented 3d Battalion, 393d. 
Through the afternoon the prospect of a 
large-scale German armored attack from 
Biillingen had loomed large in the cal- 
culations of both General Robertson and 
General Lauer. Fortunately the attack 
failed to come. 

In the late afternoon two rifle bat- 
talions were on their way to Krinkelt and 
Rocherath: the 1st Battalion of the 9th 
Infantry (Lt. Col. William D. McKin- 
ley) cleared the Wahlerscheid area at 
1415; the 1st Battalion of the 38th Infan- 
try (Lt. Col. Frank T. Mildren) started 
on its way at 1530. The road south was 
now under German shellfire, going was 
slow, and only a short span of daylight 
remained. The danger involved in the 
movement across the front multiplied 
with each hour, for the 99th Division 
center, east of the twin villages, was 
collapsing. 

On the road General Robertson met 



Colonel McKinley and told him that he 
had just come from the command post 
of the 395th Infantry where he had 
learned that the Germans had broken 
through the 393d. Robertson had split 
the preceding battalion of the 9th Infan- 
try to send a rifle company and part of 
the headquarters company to bar the 
main road from the forest into Roche- 
rath. Now he ordered McKinley to rush 
his battalion to Rocherath and hold the 
woods road "until ordered to with- 
draw." At dusk the 1st Battalion was in 
position, deployed on a slight rise over- 
looking a shallow depression from which 
a gradual ascent led into the forest. 

A thick fog lay close to the snow-cov- 
ered ground. Around was a scene of wild 
confusion, stragglers with and without 
arms hurrying along the road and across 
the fields, the sound and flash of gun- 
fire coming from the woods to the east. 
Company K, now attached to the 1st Bat- 
talion, already was north of the road, 
backed up by three guns from the 644th 
Tank Destroyer Battalion. Company C 
closed beside K; Company B dug in 
at the road; Company A lay to the south. 
The battalion had not picked up its 
mines during the disengagement, but 
was able to get a few from the tank 
destroyers for use at the road. There 
were fifteen extra bazookas on the am- 
munition vehicles, and these were 
handed to riflemen earlier trained by 
McKinley as bazooka men. Forward ob- 
servers from the 15th Field Artillery 
Battalion hurriedly set up their com- 
munications. In the woods, less than a 
thousand yards away, firing continued 
as darkness closed over the American po- 
sition. 

Friendly infantry and tanks were 
known to be coming west. About 1930 



110 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OE THE BULGE 



three tanks and a platoon or so of in- 
fantry came through Company B. They 
had passed on toward Rocherath before 
anyone realized that this was the first 
of the enemy. Half an hour later more 
tanks came clanking along the road, the 
dark shapes of infantrymen following. 
This time Company B took no chances. 
The first two German tanks struck the 
American mines. Then two more tried 
to swing off the road, only to be knocked 
out by bazooka fire. By this time the Ger- 
mans were milling about, apparently 
completely surprised, while the 15th 
Eield Artillery Battalion added to the 
confusion by beating the road close to 
the 1st Battalion foxholes. It took the 
enemy an hour or so to reorganize. Then 
five or six German tanks attacked in 
line, rolling to within a couple of hun- 
dred yards of the foxhole line where 
they halted and fired for nearly half an 
hour. Next the accompanying infantry 
rushed in, but were cut down by the 
heavy machine guns on the final pro- 
tective line. Finally the enemy tankers 
and riflemen got together in an assault 
that broke through. 

The 1st Battalion refused to panic and 
set to work with bazookas against the 
flanks of the blinded tanks. One of the 
panzers was crippled, but the crew com- 
partment proved impervious to bazooka 
rounds (perhaps this was a Tiger) . So 
Cpl. Charles Roberts (Company D) and 
Sgt. Otis Bone (Company B) drained 
some gasoline from an abandoned ve- 
hicle, doused the tank, and lit the whole 
with thermite grenades. When German 
tanks moved into the Company A area, 
American artillery responded to the ur- 
gent call for help and within three min- 
utes dropped in a concentration that 
stopped the assault. Meanwhile the 



American gunners, firing from new em- 
placements near Camp Elsenborn, had 
effectively checked further troop moves 
on the road from the forest, seven bat- 
talions finally joining in the shoot. By 
midnight all was quiet in front of the 
1st Battalion except for the distant crash 
of friendly artillery— around the fox- 
holes the silence was "frightening." 
Stubborn determination, mines, ma- 
chine guns, and bazookas had checked 
this first series of assaults, but the battal- 
ion commander would credit the gun- 
ners at Elsenborn with saving his 
battalion.^ 

It will be recalled that the 1st Bat- 
talion of the 38th Infantry had started 
south shortly after the departure of the 
last troops of the gth Infantry. The ac- 
tual withdrawal was screened by the 2d 
Battalion of the 38th, the final covering 
force of the 2d Division, and was aided 
by fire and smoke laid down by the 37th 
Eield Artillery Battalion, 81-mm. and 4. 
2 -inch mortars. On the road the regi- 
mental executive officer met Colonel 
Mildren and explained the 1st Battalion 
mission: to go into the line forming at 
the twin villages on the left of the 3d 
Battalion, 38th Infantry, east and north- 
east of Krinkelt. Mildren learned in 
addition that the battalion probably 
would have to fight its way to the as- 
signed position, a jarring note that 
pleased none this close to nightfall. 

About a thousand yards north of 



'■' For ease of description this engagement has 
been treated as a fight by the ist Battalion; notice, 
however, that the ist deployed alongside Com- 
pany K. Pfc. William A. Soderman, of Company 
K, stopped three enemy tanks with bazooka rounds 
during the night of battle but was badly wounded 
by machine gun fire from the last tank he at- 
tacked. Soderman was awarded the Medal of 
Honor. 



THE GERMAN NORTHERN SHOULDER IS JAMMED 



111 



Rocherath the battalion column came to 
a crossroads which had been picked as a 
profitable target for the enemy artillery 
and Werfers. Company A at the head of 
the column passed safely, but the rest 
came into a gantlet of the most severe 
shelling the veteran battalion ever had 
encountered. Company C, third in the 
serial, suffered most and became badly 
disorganized. German tanks were near 
the crossroads and might have cut into 
the American infantry had not T/4 
Truman Kimbro placed mines across the 
eastern entry. Kimbro was killed, after 
having been hit innumerable times. He 
was awarded the Medal of Honor post- 
humously. 

The leading company, now alone, 
entered Rocherath at dusk but found no 
guides and marched on through the next 
village until met by bullet fire. Twice 
the company doubled back on its trail 
until finally found by the battalion ex- 
ecutive and directed to the proper po- 
sition. Company B arriving about 2130, 
moved in on the left of Company A but 
was still on the surface (not having had 
time to intrench) when German tanks 
and infantry struck from the northeast at 
Krinkelt. Company A, well dug in and 
with all its weapons emplaced, let the 
tanks roll past and then took on the in- 
fantry. Its neighbor. Company B, ex- 
posed and without its supporting 
weapons, was riddled, only one platoon 
managing to escape. The Company B 
survivors, joined by what was left of 
Company C, fell back to the regimental 
command post in Rocherath and joined 
the antitank company in the street fight 
raging there. 

Back at Krinkelt three German tanks 
with infantry clinging to their decks got 
into the eastern streets; with this foot- 



hold won more Germans appeared as the 
night went on. The fight for Krinkelt 
surged back and forth, building to build- 
ing, hedgerow to hedgerow. Men on both 
sides were captured and recaptured as the 
tide of battle turned. A German attempt 
to seize the heavy-walled church on the 
northern edge of the village was beaten 
off by the reconnaissance company of the 
644th Tank Destroyer Battalion, which 
had lost a platoon at Biillingen during 
the morning. The communications offi- 
cer of the 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry, 1st 
Lt. Jesse Morrow, knocked out a tank 
with only a rifle grenade. (Morrow later 
was awarded the DSC.) The situation in 
Krinkelt was further confused by re- 
treating troops from the 99th Division, 
intermixed as they were with the infil- 
trating enemy. One German, using a cap- 
tured American to give the password, got 
past two outposts, but a sentry finally 
killed both men. At midnight a column 
of 99th Infantry vehicles started pouring 
through the town and continued the rest 
of the night. 

At Rocherath, the Germans who had 
so boldly entered the village earlier in 
the evening destroyed three American 
tanks as these inched their way out of 
the village to help Company K of the 
38th Infantry. Here too the fight was 
bitter and confused. At one time a 
battalion commander of the 38th was 
reported to have men from sixteen 
different companies fighting under his 
command. By midnight, however, the 
enemy tanks behind the American lines 
had been accounted for and the German 
infantrymen captured or killed. 

When the wild night of fighting drew 
to a close, the Americans still were in 
control of the two villages and the near 
sector of the Wahlerscheid withdrawal 



112 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



route. The rear guard 2d Battalion of the 
38th had made a highly successful with- 
drawal and was assembled a half mile 
north of Rocherath. The 395th Infantry 
had moved back as ordered and, thus 
far in good shape, held the left flank of 
the 2d Division northeast of Rocherath 
astride the two approaches to the 
fork above the village. (It had left 
the 324th Engineer Battalion isolated 
on Rath Hill, however, and when the 
engineers started west on the morning of 
the 18th they came under fire from both 
the 395th and the enemy.) Straggler 
lines were operating around the twin 
villages and a start was being made at 
regrouping the strays and tying to- 
gether the bits and pieces of the Ameri- 
can line. Wirtzfeld, the one good escape 
hatch to Elsenborn, was ready for a de- 
fense in force. The 2d Division artillery 
and its reinforcing battalions had dis- 
placed to the Elsenborn ridge in positions 
within range of the entire front. General 
Robertson's 2d Division and attached 
troops had carried through a highly com- 
plex maneuver in the face of the enemy, 
disengaging in a fortified zone, withdraw- 
ing across a crumbling front, then wheel- 
ing from column to secure and organize 
a defensive line in the dark and under 
attack. Having completed this mission, 
the 2d Division was under orders to hold 
in place while the remnants of the 99th 
Division right wing passed through to 
Elsenborn; then it was to break away and 
re-form for the defense of the Elsenborn 
ridge. 

The appearance of the 2d Infantry 
Division at the twin villages probably 
came as a complete surprise to the Ger- 
man command. German intelligence had 
failed completely as regards the location 
of this division and believed that it was 



in reserve at Elsenborn. Peculiarly 
enough, the fact that the 2d was attack- 
ing through the 99th positions never was 
reported to the Sixth Panzer Army head- 
quarters. Dietrich expected, therefore, to 
break through the 99th and meet the 2d 
somewhere to the rear or possibly to 
the right rear of the 99th. This may 
explain the German failure to attempt 
an end run and drive for Elsenborn. 

The ist Infantry Division Sends 
Reinforcements to Butgenbach 

The advance guard of the ist SS Pan- 
zer Division had reached Biillingen on 
the early morning of 17 December, by 
its presence threatening the open right 
flank and the rear of the 99th Division. 
Although the German armored column 
veered southwest, under the eyes of the 
astonished Americans, the presence of 
the enemy this deep within the bare 
south flank was a cause of grave concern 
to General Lauer and later to General 
Robertson. Through the morning only 
a handful of engineers and headquarters 
personnel, backed up with single tank 
destroyer and antiaircraft pieces, stood 
in the way of a German dash north across 
the American rear. But the ist SS Pan- 
zer, intent on objectives far to the west, 
failed to make this play.^ A platoon 
of Mark IV tanks did scout the Butgen- 
bach road but withdrew when three were 
destroyed by the few guns of Company 



^ The history of the fight against the ist SS 
Panzer during the first few days of the advance 
was the subject of a special report, based on 
personal interviews in January 1945, by Capt. 
Franklin Ferriss (in OCMH) . Coverage on the 
German side is good, notably MSS # A-924 
(Kraemer), A-877 (Priess), and B-733, 12th 
Volks Grenadier Division, 1-29 December 1944 
(Generalleutnant Gerhard Engel) . 



THE GERMAN NORTHERN SHOULDER IS JAMMED 



113 



B, 6 12th Tank Destroyer Battalion, 
which Capt. John J. Kennedy had 
implaced near Dom Butgenbach. 

Reinforcements from the ist Infantry 
Division, as promised by the VII Corps, 
arrived at Camp Elsenborn about ogoo, 
reported to the 99th Division, and were 
dispatched at once toward Butgenbach. 
This village lay on high ground belong- 
ing to the vital Elsenborn ridge and 
would be the point of entry for any Ger- 
man thrust on the road net north of Biill- 
ingen.* 

The 26th Infantry (Col. John F. R. 
Seitz) , which had been transferred to 
V Corps control the previous midnight, 
was the only unit thus far sent south by 
the 1st Division. At Elsenborn, after 
General Lauer had given a quick re- 
sume of the situation, the regimental ex- 
ecutive officer, then in command, put 
the 2d Battalion in the lead, sending 
it south to occupy two hills midway be- 
tween Butgenbach and Biillingen which 
overlooked the main road connecting 
the two villages. By dusk the 2d Battalion 
(Lt. Col. Derrill M. Daniel) was de- 
ployed on the high ground near the tiny 
hamlet of Dom Butgenbach, dug in 
along the reverse slopes on a 2,100-yard 
front. Both flanks were wide open. The 
enemy, however, failed to react force- 
fully to the American move, although 
a 2d Battalion patrol found that the 
Germans still were in Bullingen. The 
26th Infantry ultimately would be hit 



* The actions fought here by the a6th Infantry 
involved very heavy fighting by attached tanks 
and tanlc destroyers. See especially the AAR's of 
the 741st and 745th Tank Battalions; the 634th, 
703d, and 801st Tank Destroyer Battalions. See 
also Capt, D. E. Rivette, "The Hot Corner at 
Dom Butgenbach," Infantry Journal (October, 
1945). PP- 19-23- 



and hit hard, but not until the German 
plans for shattering the eastern front of 
the 99th and 2d Divisions had failed. 
The night of I'y December passed un- 
eventfully except for the booming of the 
guns of the 33d Field Artillery Battalion 
and 413th Antiaircraft Gun Battalion 
firing from their positions with the 26th 
Infantry against the hostile traffic stream- 
ing through Biillingen. 

Early the following morning small 
enemy detachments appeared in the 
Dom Butgenbach area but showed no 
inclination to close with the Americans. 
The 26th Infantry had been busy during 
the night completing its deployment: the 
3d Battalion now was dug in west o£ 
Wirtzfeld on the left of the 2d Battalion, 
which retained the responsibility for 
blocking the Biillingen-Butgenbach 
road; the 1st Battalion was in reserve 
around Butgenbach; and considerable 
artillery and tank destroyer strength re- 
inforced the command. In anticipation 
of an all-out German attack at this 
critical section of the American front, 
the V Corps truckhead at Butgenbach 
was closed and all rations and gasoline 
were evacuated. Farther to the west, 
where no defense had yet formed, the 
Robertville ammunition supply point, 
holding six thousand tons, suspended 
operations and moved to the rear. But 
through the 18th the enemy showed no 
sign of any earnest intent in front of the 
26th Infantry. 

The Defense of the Twin Villages 
18 December 

The German attempt to take Krinkelt 
and Rocherath during the night of 17- 
18 December had not been well co- 
ordinated, carried out as it was by the 



THE GERMAN NORTHERN SHOULDER IS JAMMED 



115 



advance guards of two divisions 
attacking piecemeal in the dark 
over unknown terrain against re- 
sistance which was completely surprising. 
By the morning of 18 December, how- 
ever, the enemy strength had increased 
substantially despite the miserable state 
of the woods roads leading to the twin 
villages. The p8pth Regiment of the 
2yyth Volks Grenadier Division (prob- 
ably reinforced by a third battalion) had 
reached Rocherath. The 12th SS Panzer 
Division, whose tanks and armored in- 
fantry carriers made extremely slow 
progress on the muddy secondary roads— 
quickly chewed up by churning tracks- 
was able by dawn to assemble the 2^th 
Panzer Grenadier Regiment, an assault 
gun battalion, and one full tank bat- 
talion east of the villages. During the 
18th this force was strengthened by one 
more tank battalion, the final armored 
commitment being about equally di- 
vided between Panther tanks and the 
heavy Tigers. 

The American strength at Krinkelt 
and Rocherath was substantial and by 
daylight on 18 December was assuming 
a cohesive defensive pattern as the bat- 
talions reorganized after the race south 
and the confused night battle. Most of 
the 38th Infantry (Col. Francis H. Boos) 
was in and around the two villages, plus 
about a battalion and a half of the 9th 
Infantry and a few platoons of the 23d 
Infantry (Col. Jay B. Loveless) . Al- 
though these 2d Division troops had gap- 
ing ranks, so had their opponents. For- 
tunately, in view of the number of tanks 
ready in the German camp, the Amer- 
ican infantry had the means of antitank 
defense at hand: the 741st Tank Battal- 
ion, 644th Tank Destroyer Battalion, a 
company of the 612th Tank Destroyer 



Battalion, and a few guns from the 801st 
Tank Destroyer Battalion. On Elsen- 
born ridge, but well within supporting 
range, lay the sd Division artillery 
(which had displaced after firing from 
extreme forward positions) , the bulk of 
the 99th Division artillery, and some 
corps field artillery battalions. The flanks 
of the 2d Division position at the villages 
were more or less covered by elements of 
the 9th and 23d Infantry in Wirtzfeld, 
to the southwest, and the battalions of 
the 393d deployed in blocking positions 
to hold the road net north of Rocherath. 
As yet, however, there was no homo- 
geneous line sealing the 2d Division 
front, and the men and vehicles of the 
99th Division still passing through to the 
west complicated the problem of co-or- 
dinating the defense and artillery fire. 

An ominous quiet prevailed around 
Rocherath during the early, dark hours 
of 18 December, but just before first 
light the enemy resumed the assault, this 
time employing his tanks and infantry in 
ordered company. The 1st Battalion of 
the 9th Infantry, deployed east of the 
village along the road from the woods, 
took the first blow. Apparently a com- 
pany of tanks had been brought close 
to the American line during the night 
battle, and these now attacked with more 
than a battalion of infantry. While the 
batteries on Elsenborn ridge furiously 
shelled the road, a confused fight spread 
all along the foxhole line. The morning 
fog was heavy, visibility almost nil. The 
American infantry let the tanks roll past, 
then tailed them with bazookas or turned 
to meet the oncoming infantry at close 
quarters with grenades, and even bay- 
onets or knives. This first assault was 
beaten ofl^, while a number of the Ger- 
man tanks were crippled or destroyed 



116 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



by bazooka teams stalking successfully 
under cover o£ the fog. 

When the fog lifted about 0830, three 
German tanks rolled right along the fox- 
hole line firing their machine guns while 
the German infantry rushed forward. Lt. 
Stephen P. Truppner of Company A 
radioed that his company had been over- 
run and asked for artillery to fire on his 
own position. For thirty minutes an 
American battalion shelled this area. 
Only twelve men escaped. Company K, 
which had been attached to the battalion 
the day before, likewise was engulfed. 
Capt. Jack J. Garvey, sending a last 
message from the cellar of the house 
which was his command post, refused 
to leave because he could not get his 
company out. Ten men and one officer 
escaped. On the left Companies B and 
C were able to hold their ground; a 
few from Company B broke and ran but 
were sent back by the battalion com- 
mander. 

The German wave carried tanks and 
infantry inside Rocherath, the fight 
eddying from house to house, wall to 
wall, along streets and down narrow 
alleys. Tanks fought tanks; men were 
captured, then captured again. Mean- 
while, Colonel Boos did what he could 
to form some defense behind what was 
left of the 1st Battalion of the gth.® 
He radioed Colonel McKinley that as 
soon as the 2d Battalion of the 38th 
could swing into position, a matter of 
an hour or more, the 1st Battalion 
should withdraw. With his remaining 
two companies transfixed by direct tank 



" Here Sgt. James L. Bayliss manned his machine 
gun to cover his men although he had been under 
fire by a German tank. Finally he was killed by 
a tank-gun round. Bayliss was awarded the DSC. 



fire and surrounded by German in- 
fantry, McKinley replied that no with- 
drawal was possible unless friendly tanks 
or tank destroyers arrived. "Miracu- 
lously," as the 1st Battalion later re- 
ported, a platoon of Sherman tanks came 
into view. This was a part of A company, 
741st Tank Battalion, which had been 
patrolling the Wahlerscheid road. 

When the platoon commander was 
asked if he wanted to do some fighting 
the reply was profanely affirmative. 
First the tanks joined the infantry in a 
counterattack to reach the positions 
which had been held by Companies A 
and K. Two of the three German tanks 
which had been harassing the battalion 
were destroyed by the Shermans, but no 
contact was made with the lost com- 
panies. A second counterattack by the 
tank platoon covered the 1st Battalion 
withdrawal, but the last riflemen out 
had the Germans yelling at their heels. 

The shattered battalion withdrew 
through the 2d Battalion of the 38th, 
fell back to Rocherath, and then 
marched to Krinkelt, where it billeted in 
a deserted hotel. Approximately 240 offi- 
cers and men were left of the orig- 
inal battalion and its attached units. In 
addition to the nearly total loss of Com- 
panies A and K, all of the Company 
M machine gunners attached to the 1st 
Battalion were missing in action. Of the 
group that had been rushed in the pre- 
vious evening from Headquarters Com- 
pany, 3d Battalion, only thirteen were 
left. It seems probable that the entire 
p8pth Regiment had been employed in 
wresting the road to Rocherath from the 
stubborn 1st Battalion; the fight had 
gone on for nearly six hours and had 
given the 38th Infantry time to regroup 
to meet the enemy drive. Colonel Boos 



THE GERMAN NORTHERN SHOULDER IS JAMMED 



117 



gratefully acknowledged that this gallant 
stand had saved his regiment. 

The 3d Battalion of the 393d, after 
hard fighting on the 17 th, had with- 
drawn northeast of Rocherath and tied 
in sketchily on the left of the 1st Bat- 
talion, gth Infantry. Colonel Allen's bat- 
talion was about half strength and had 
lost all of its machine guns, mortars, and 
antitank guns. The furious morning 
attack against the 1st Battalion, with a 
tank platoon in the lead, also struck the 
3d Battalion. Unable to combat the tanks 
although one was hit by a bazooka round, 
the battalion fell back a thousand yards 
to the northwest. Good radio communi- 
cation with the 395th allowed its cannon 
company to take a hand effectively, cover- 
ing the retirement and discouraging close 
pursuit. About noon Allen's men were 
ordered to Wirtzfeld, then on to the line 
forming at Elsenborn. 

Although enemy tanks and foot troops 
had penetrated as far as the 38th com- 
mand post inside Rocherath, they 
were successfully hunted out during the 
morning. The Germans continued to 
hammer along the forest road, striving 
to win free entrance to the village, but 
they found the 2d Battalion of the 38th 
(Lt. Col. Jack K. Norris) , now standing 
in the way, a tough opponent. The most 
successful assault of the afternoon forced 
the 2d Battalion to retire "one hedge- 
row." 

The battle for Krinkelt, if it can be 
separated from that raging around 
Rocherath, commenced sometime be- 
fore dawn when five tanks and a body 
of infantry moved cautiously up to the 
eastern edge of the village. When the 
enemy tankers halted to confer with their 
infantry escort. Company L, 23d Infan- 
try, which had been placed in the line 



after its retreat from the woods the 
evening before, killed some forty of the 
Germans and the panzers decamped. A 
brief period of quiet followed and dur- 
ing this lull the foot detachment of the 
394th from Miirringen passed through 
the American lines en route to Wirtzfeld 
and Elsenborn. By 0830, however, the 
fight for Krinkelt was on in earnest. A 
number of attacks were checked by 
shellfire before they could make much 
headway. Nonetheless, a tank platoon 
penetrated as far as the 1st Battalion, 
38th Infantry, command post before it 
was destroyed, and a few German tanks 
got as far as the road south to Wirtzfeld. 
In this quarter, as at Rocherath, the 
American tanks, tank destroyers, and 
bazooka teams left the German tanks 
smoking and broken.^ 

During the night of 18 December, 
the 2d Division still held the twin vil- 
lages while the last organized units of the 
99th Division moved west on their way 
to Elsenborn. In the dark, German 
bazooka teams crept along walls and 
hedgerows seeking the hiding places 
of the American tanks and tank de- 
stroyers which had done so much to foil 
the armored attacks during the day. The 
panzers again made forays into the vil- 
lages, made their kills, and in turn were 
destroyed. 

Although the American hold in this 
sector remained firm, some of the con- 
fusion and loss of control normally in- 
herent in a tactical situation like that 
faced by the 2d and 99th Divisions was 
beginning to tell. Orders from the 99th 
Division had been addressed to the 394th 



" During the fighting, in the twin villages on 
the 18th, 1st Lt. R. A. Parker destroyed or 
immobilized six enemy tanks with a rocket 
launcher. Parker was awarded the DSC. 



118 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 




Captured German Tank Crewman 



Infantry, at 0808, stressing that the reg- 
iment was not to withdraw to Elsenborn 
but instead should take position south 
of Krinkelt beside the 38th Infantry. The 
main body of the 394th already had 
passed through Krinkelt by that hour 
and probably never received the order 
until it arrived at Elsenborn. 

Confused communications also had 
an impact in the area held by the 395th 
Infantry on the north flank. General 
Robertson, about 0200 on the morning 
of the 18th, had radioed the 395th In- 
fantry to maintain contact with the 38th 
but to prepare for a move to Elsenborn. 
Thus far the enemy had made no move 
to strike the 395th positions in force. 
A radio message reached the 395th com- 
mand post about 1600 ordering the reg- 



iment to withdraw to Elsenborn. The 
move began while Colonel Mackenzie 
went on to the 99th Division head- 
quarters at Elsenborn to report. Here 
he was informed that no such order 
had been sent (it had been sent but 
was garbled) and General Lauer told 
him that his battalions must be sent 
back to their positions at once. Mac- 
kenzie was able to reach two battalions 
on the road and turn them back, but the 
1st Battalion, 395th, had arrived in El- 
senborn before word could reach it. The 
countermarch was made successfully and 
the old positions reoccupied at 0500 on 
19 December. Information that the 395th 
had left, denuding the north flank, 
reached the 38th Infantry commander 
during the night and caused much con- 



THE GERMAN NORTHERN SHOULDER IS JAMMED 



119 



cern. But the ppoth Volks Gre?iadier 
Regiment, at the forest edge east of the 
395th positions, either had failed to 
notice the withdrawal or had been un- 
willing to make a move with darkness 
settling. 

The Last Attack at Hofen Fails 
18 December 

Ten miles by road north of Krinkelt 
and Rocherath the 3d Battalion, 395th 
Infantry, fought an isolated but impor- 
tant engagement on 18 December.^ 
Having failed the day before to breach 
the American cavalry line at Mon- 
schau, the ^26th Volks Grenadier Divi- 
sion turned again toward Hofen where 
it had encountered such a sharp reverse 
on the first day of the German counter- 
offensive. The 2d Battalion of the 753d 
Regiment finally had rejoined the di- 
vision; so General Kaschner put this 
regiment in the van, nourishing his 
assault waves with companies of the re- 
maining two regiments as the fight 
developed. Some three hours before day- 
break the German assault detachments 
moved forward from the hills surround- 
ing Hofen to make a first test of the 
American defenses at the northern edge 
of the village. Well prepared for such 
an onslaught, concentrated artillery and 
mortar fire blanketed the ground over 
which the grenadiers had to advance. 
Despite heavy casualties from this fire 
the enemy broke through to the village. 
There followed a confused battle, but 
when day broke the last Germans were 
being routed from the houses, 

' The 3d Battalion o£ the tj95th Infantry was 
given a Presidential Citation for its fight at 
Hofen. Sgt. T. E. Piersall and Pfc. Richard Mills 
fought with such conspicuous courage as to receive 
the DSC. 



The first daylight assault came about 
0900 preceded by a barrage of artillery, 
rocket, and mortar fire. Advancing 
through a thick haze, ten tanks, seven 
armored cars, and an infantry battalion 
made for the village. Once more the de- 
fensive gun concentrations made great 
play in the gray ranks. The 3-inch tank 
destroyers of the 612th Tank Destroyer 
Battalion, although frozen in place, held 
the German fighting vehicles at bay- 
even with the limited traverse. As be- 
fore, some of the attackers broke 
through. Colonel Butler phoned the 
forward observer of the 196th Field Ar- 
tillery Battalion, whose little party was 
fighting off Germans around its observa- 
tion post (a three-story brick building 
right in the forward line) , and asked for 
three five-minute concentrations on his 
own positions.* The shells came in 
promptly. As the fire finally lifted But- 
ler sent his reserve, a single platoon of I 
Company, into the counterattack. Pick- 
ing up strength at the foxhole line, the 
Americans drove the remaining foe back 
in the direction of Rohren. The German 
tanks, whose appearance had caused the 
3d Battalion to request help "at once," 
took a singularly small part in the fray, 
retiring behind a ridge which gave 
shelter against direct antitank fire. It 
must be said that the German grena- 
diers were of sterner stuff. The Ameri- 
can main line of resistance was not com- 
pletely re-established until 1230. When 
night came the Germans tried once 
again but to no avail. 

Thus ended the enemy plan to carry 
the northern pivot of the Sixth Panzer 



'^This was 2d Lt. S. D. Llewellyn, who later re- 
ceived the DSC for the defense of the observation 
post. 



120 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



Army offensive as far forward as Eupen. 
Kaschner had planned to shift his attack 
later in the day toward Monschau, but 
this attack never was made. The bloody 
failure at Hofen gives a more than ade- 
quate explanation. German dead liter- 
ally were piled in front of the 3d 
Battalion. The disparity in losses suffered 
by the combatants is amazing. The Ger- 
man dead counted in and around Hofen 
numbered 554; prisoners numbered 53. 
The American casualties were five killed 
and seven wounded. From this time 
on the }26th Volks Grenadier Division 
abandoned all but minor action in this 
sector, finally turning south to take a 
secondary role in the ensuing battle at 
the Elsenborn ridge. Hofen and Mons- 
chau remained in American hands 
through the rest of the Ardennes Cam- 
paign. 

The 2d Division Withdraws 
to the Elsenborn Line 
ip December 

At 1800 on 18 December the V Corps 
commander attached General Lauer's 
99th Division to Robertson's 2d Divi- 
sion. General Gerow's instructions, 
given Robertson late on 17 December 
for a defense of the Rocherath-Krinkelt- 
Wirtzfeld line until such time as the 
isolated American troops to the east 
could be withdrawn, finally were ful- 
filled on the night of 18-19 December 
when the remnants of the 1st Battalion 
of the 393d and the 2d Battalion of the 
394th came back through the 2d Divi- 
sion lines. These were the last organized 
units to find their way to safety, although 
small groups and individual stragglers 
would appear at the Elsenborn rallying 
point for some days to come. Then, de- 



spite the fact that the 2d Division was 
hard pressed, Robertson made good on 
his promise to the corps commander that 
he would release the 99th Division ele- 
ments which had been placed in the 2d 
Division line and send them to Elsen- 
born for reorganization within their own 
division. The tactical problem remain- 
ing was to disengage the 2d Division 
and its attached troops, particularly 
those in the twin villages, while at the 
same time establishing a new and solid 
defense along the Elsenborn ridge. 

The failure to break through at the 
twin villages on 18 December and so 
open the way south to the main armored 
route via Biillingen had repercussions all 
through the successive layers of German 
command on the Western Front. 
Realizing that the road system and the 
terrain in front of the Sixth Panzer Army 
presented more difficulties than those 
confronting the Fifth, it had been 
agreed to narrow the Sixth Panzer Army 
zone of attack and in effect ram through 
the American front by placing two pan- 
zer corps in column. The southern wing 
of the ist SS Panzer Corps, in the Sixth 
Panzer Army van, had speedily punched 
a hole between the io6th and 99th 
American divisions and by 1 8 December 
the leading tank columns of the ist SS 
Panzer Division were deep in the Amer- 
ican rear areas. The northern wing, 
however, had made very slow progress 
and thus far had failed to shake any 
tanks loose in a dash forward on the 
northern routes chosen for armored pen- 
etration. Peremptory telephone messages 
from the headquarters of OB WEST har- 
assed Dietrich, the Sixth Panzer Army 
commander, all during the 1 8th and were 
repeated— doubtless by progressively 
sharpening voices— all the way to the 



THE GERMAN NORTHERN SHOULDER IS JAMMED 



121 




Krinkelt-Rocherath front. But exhorta- 
tion had been fruitless. 

Although Dietrich continued to nee- 
dle his subordinates to get the right wing 
of the army rolling forward, he also 
sought to remedy the situation by chang- 
ing the / 5S Panzer Corps tactics. Diet- 
rich suggested to General Priess that the 
i2th SS Panzer Division disengage, 
swing south, bypass Butgenbach, and get 
back onto the main route some place 
west of the thorny American position. 
The / SS Panzer Corps commander and 
his staff politely rejected this idea on the 
grounds that the byroads were impass- 
able and that Krinkelt, Rocherath, and 



Butgenbach must be cleared to open the 
better road net. Eventually Dietrich pre- 
vailed—or some compromise was 
reached— for late on 18 December ar- 
mored elements of the 12th SS Panzer 
Division began to withdraw from the 
twin villages, while the _jd Panzer Gren- 
adier Division, which had been sched- 
uled for the fight at Monschau, marched 
west from reserve to take over the battle 
with the 2d Division. 

The German plans for 19 December 
were these: the 2yyth Folks Grenadier 
Division and advancing troops of the 
_jd Panzer Grenadier Division were to 
continue the attack at Krinkelt and 



122 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



Rocherath; the 8^th Regiment, 12th 
Volks Grenadier Division, which had 
come up from reserve and initiated an 
attack from Miirringen against Krinkelt 
the day before, was to maintain pressure 
in this sector. Meanwhile, the 12th SS 
Panzer Division was to complete its 
withdrawal from the twin villages and 
move as quickly as the poor roads would 
allow to join a kampfgruppe of the 12th 
Volks Grenadier Division in a thrust 
against the American flank position at 
Butgenbach. The direction of the Ger- 
man main effort, as a result, would shift, 
substituting an armored thrust against 
the flank for the battering-ram frontal 
attack against the now well-developed 
defenses in the area of Krinkelt-Roch- 
erath. Fresh German infantry were en 
route to the twin villages, and some 
reinforcements would be employed 
there on the 19th, but the attack would 
lack the armored weight whose momen- 
tum had carried earlier assault waves 
into the heart of the American positions. 

At dawn, on 1 9 December, and blank- 
eted in thick fog, the German grena- 
diers advanced on Krinkelt and Roche- 
rath. The batteries back on Elsenborn 
ridge once again laid down a defensive 
barrage, ending the attack before it 
could make any headway. Another 
advance, rolling forward under an in- 
coming fog about 1000, placed enemy 
snipers and machine gunners close to the 
American positions. Shortly after noon a 
few German tanks churned toward the 
villages and unloaded machine gunners 
to work the weapons on derelict tanks 
which had been abandoned close to the 
American foxhole line. Apparently the 
enemy infantry were edging in as close 
as they could in preparation for a final 
night assault. Headlong assault tactics 



were no longer in evidence, however. In 
the meantime the defenders picked up 
the sounds of extensive vehicular move- 
ment (representing the departing ele- 
ments of the 12th SS Panzer Division) , 
and a platoon of tanks appeared north- 
east of Rocherath but quickly retired 
when artillery concentrations and direct 
fire were brought to bear. 

Inside the twin villages' perimeter 
the defenders were aware that a phase 
of the battle was ending. Colonel Stokes, 
the assistant division commander, was 
preparing plans for withdrawal to the 
Elsenborn lines. Colonel Boos had the 
38th Infantry and its attached troops at 
work quietly destroying the weapons and 
equipment, German and American, 
which could not be evacuated. Finally, at 
1345, the withdrawal order was issued, 
to be put in effect beginning at 1730. 
The 395 th Infantry was to retire from its 
lines north of the villages and move 
cross-country (by a single boggy trail) 
west to Elsenborn. The 38th Infantry 
and its attached units, more closely 
engaged and in actual physical contact 
with the enemy, would break away from 
the villages, fall back west through 
Wirtzfeld, then move along the tem- 
porary road which the sd Division 
engineers had constructed between 
Wirtzfeld and Berg. Once the 38th 
had cleared through the Wirtzfeld posi- 
tion, now held by elements of the gth 
Infantry and a battalion of the 23d, it 
would occupy a new defensive line west 
and northwest of Wirtzfeld, while the 
9th Infantry in turn evacuated that vil- 
lage. 

Company officers commanding troops 
facing the enemy had been carefully 
briefed to avoid the word "withdrawal" 
in final instructions to their men. This 



THE GERMAN NORTHERN SHOULDER IS JAMMED 



123 



was to be "a move to new positions"; 
all were to walk, not run. Col. Leland 
W. Skaggs' 741st Tank Battalion, tank 
destroyers from the 644th Tank De- 
stroyer Battalion, and the 2d Division 
engineers would form a covering force 
in the villages, laying mines and beating 
off any attempt at "pursuit." Disengage- 
ment was made from left to right, 
"stripping" the 2d Division line from 
Rocherath to Wirtzfeld. First, the 2d 
Battalion of the 38th Infantry pulled out 
of the north edge of Rocherath; the 1st 
Battalion, deployed in both villages, 
followed; the 3d Battalion tacked on at 
Krinkelt. A half hour later, just as the 
Germans moved into Rocherath, Com- 
pany C of the 644th and Company B of 
the 741st hauled out, the tanks carrying 
the engineers. The move through Wirtz- 
feld, now in flames, brought the 38th 
under German guns and resulted in 
some casualties and confusion, but at 
0200 on 20 December the rear guard 
tank platoon left Wirtzfeld and half an 
hour later the gth Infantry passed 
through the new lines occupied by the 
38th Infantry a thousand yards west of 
the village. 

The four-day battle which had pitted 
the 2d Infantry Division and the 99th 
Infantry Division against the spearheads 
of the Sixth Panzer Army had cost both 
sides heavily in men and materiel. But 
in the balance sheet for this desperate 
initial phase of the German counteroffen- 
sive, where lives weighed less than hours 
won or lost, the reckoning was favorable 
to the Americans. What the fruitless bid 
for a quick decision had cost the Ger- 
mans in terms of dead and wounded has 
no accounting. The losses of the un- 
tried 99th Division, fighting its first 
major action under circumstances far 



more difficult than was the lot of most 
American infantry divisions in the Eu- 
ropean Theater of Operations, have 
been compiled only as a total for the 
whole month of December. A careful 
check shows that the 99th had few cas- 
ualties prior to 16 December or after 19 
December; nine-tenths or more of the 
following list, therefore, represents the 
cost of four days of battle: 14 officers and 
119 men killed in action; 53 officers and 
1,341 men missing in action; 51 of- 
ficers and 864 men wounded in action. 
About 600 officers and men passed 
through the division clearing station be- 
fore 20 December as nonbattle casual- 
ties; half were trench foot cases. 

The veteran 2d Division had taken 
considerable punishment from exposure 
and battle loss beginning on 13 Decem- 
ber with the start of the Wahlerscheid 
operation. It is impossible to determine 
the ratio between tne casualties suffered 
in the first four days of attack and those 
of the final three days of defense. In- 
deed no total is available for the 2d 
Division during these important seven 
days. The 23d Infantry, in reserve be- 
fore 16 December and then committed 
by battalion, sustained these battle 
losses: ist Battalion, lo officers and 221 
men; 2d Battalion, 1 officer and 100 
men; 3d Battalion, 10 officers and 341 
men. The 9th Infantry, which was en- 
gaged both at Wahlerscheid and the 
twin villages, lists 47 officers and men 
killed, 425 wounded, and 192 missing. 
The regiment likewise had lost nearly 
600 officers and men as nonbattle casual- 
ties (trench foot, respiratory diseases in- 
duced by exposure, fatigue, and related 
causes) , a figure which tells something 
of the cost of lengthy battle in snow, 
damp, and mud, but also reflects the 



124 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



high incidence of nonbattle cases in a 
veteran unit whose ranks are filled with 
troops previously wounded or hospital- 
ized—often more than once. The bitter 
character of the initial twenty-four 
hours of the ad Division fight to oc- 
cupy and hold Krinkelt and Rocherath, 
after the march south, is mirrored in the 
battle losses taken by the 38th Infantry 
in that critical period: 389 officers and 
men were missing (many of them killed 
in action but not so counted since the 
Americans subsequently lost the battle- 
ground) ; 50 wounded were evacuated; 
and 1 1 were counted as killed in action. 
In the three days at the twin villages 
the 38th Infantry suffered 625 casual- 
ties. 



The defense of Krinkelt and Roche- 
rath, so successful that by the second day 
many officers and men believed that the 
sector could be held against all attack, 
is a story of determination and skilled 
leadership in a veteran command. But 
more than that, the American battle here 
exemplifies a high order of co-ordination 
and co-operation (typed though these 
terms have become) between the ground 
arms. Although the infantry almost sin- 
glehandedly secured the ground and held 
it for the first few hours, the main Ger- 
man assaults were met and checked by 
infantry, tanks, tank destroyers, and ar- 
tillery. The men of the 2d Division had 
on call and within range ample artillery 
support. Communications between the 




Gun Position on Elsenborn Ridge 



THE GERMAN NORTHERN SHOULDER IS JAMMED 



125 



firing battalions on Elsenborn ridge 
and the rifle companies in buildings and 
foxholes functioned when needed— 
although the losses suffered among the 
artillery forward observers were unu- 
sually high. Artillery throughout this 
fight offered the first line of antitank de- 
fense, immobilizing many panzers be- 
fore they reached the foxhole line, 
leaving them with broken tracks and 
sprocket wheels like crippled geese in 
front of the hunter. The 155-mm. bat- 
teries were best at this work. The 
accuracy and weight of the defensive 
concentrations laid on from Elsenborn 
ridge must also be accounted one of 
the main reasons the American infan- 
try were not completely overrun during 
the night assaults of the 17th and 
18th. One battalion of the ad Division 
artillery (the 38th Field Artillery (fired 
more than 5,000 rounds on the 18th. 
But men counted as much as weight of 
metal. Of the 48 forward observers 
working with the 15th Field Artillery 
Battalion, 32 were evacuated for wounds 
or exposure in six days of battle. 

Although an experienced outfit, the 
2d Infantry Division made its first fight 
against a large force of tanks in the ac- 
tion at Krinkelt-Rocherath. In the early 
evening of 18 December General Rob- 
ertson telephoned his assistant division 
commander: "This is a tank battle— if 
there are any tank replacements we 
could use them as crews are pretty tired. 
We could use the tanks mounting a 
90-mm. [gun]." Robertson's wish for an 
American tank with adequate armament 
to cope with the German Panthers and 
Tigers was being echoed and would be 
echoed— prayerfully and profanely— 
wherever the enemy panzer divisions ap- 
peared out of the Ardennes hills and 



forests. What the ad Division actually 
had was a little less than a battalion of 
Sherman tanks mounting the standard 
75-mm. gun, a tank weapon already 
proven unequal to a duel with Panther 
or Tiger in head-to-head encounter. It 
must be said, however, that the ad Divi- 
sion tank support came from a seasoned 
armored outfit— the 741st Tank Battal- 
ion—which had landed at Omaha 
Beach on 6 June and had been almost 
constantly in action since. Unable to en- 
gage the 12th SS Panthers and the GHQ 
Tigers on equal terms in the open field, 
the Shermans were parceled out in and 
around the villages in two's and three's. 
Hidden by walls, houses, and hedgerows, 
or making sudden forays into the open, 
the American tankers stalked the heav- 
ier, better armed panzers, maneuvering 
under cover for a clear shot at flank or 
tail, or lying quietly in a lane until a Pan- 
ther or Tiger crossed the sights. 

Since most of the enemy tanks entered 
the villages in the dark or in the fog, 
the defenders generally fought on dis- 
tinctly advantageous terms and at ranges 
where— if the heavy frontal protection of 
the German tank could be avoided— a kill 
was certain. The 741st knocked out an 
estimated a 7 tanks (nearly all of which 
actually were examined) and lost 1 1 
Shermans.* Even disabled tanks, immo- 
bilized inside the American lines, contin- 
ued to have a hand in the fight. Two 
crippled Shermans parked in a Roche- 
rath lane accounted for five Tigers which 
incautiously came by broadside. On the 
second night the German tanks entered 
the villages prepared to ferret out the 
American armor. Each assault tank was 
accompanied by foot soldiers armed with 



" The unit was awarded a Presidential Citation. 



126 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



bazookas, fires were started to light dark 
streets and alleys, and many of the Ger- 
mans boldly used their searchlights. 
These tactics failed; illumination served 
the waiting American tanks as well as 
the enemy. German bazooka teams did 
succeed in knocking out a pair of Sher- 
mans but generally found the American 
infantry, dismounted tankers, and tank 
destroyer crewmen, waiting to erase the 
walking infantry screens. 

The American tank destroyers shared 
honors with the tanks in this battle, but 
as it often happened in the Ardennes 
the fight had to be carried by the self- 
propelled guns, the towed guns serving 
mostly as convenient targets for the 
enemy. The 644th Tank Destroyer Bat- 
talion (minus one company) employed 
its self-propelled 3-inch guns with such 
effect as to destroy 17 tanks, disable 3, 
and knock out 2 German assault guns. 
Two guns of the battalion were damaged 
beyond recovery. Most of these kills were 
made in or near the villages against 
enemy tanks which had halted and were 
not firing, at ranges from 25 to 1,000 
yards. In some instances one round of 
high-velocity, armor-piercing ammuni- 
tion was sufficient to set a Panther 
aflame; generally two or three rounds 
with base detonating fuzes were needed 
and, as the Sherman tanks had found, 
direct hits on the German frontal armor 
or mantlet had the unpleasant habit of 
glancing oft. 

The experience of the 80 1st Tank 
Destroyer Battalion, a towed outfit, was 
markedly different. Emplaced close to 
the infantry line, its 3-inch guns were 
brought under intense shelling and 
could be moved only at night. During 
attack, bogged in mud and unable to 
shift firing positions, the towed tank 



destroyers quickly fell prey to direct 
fire or infantry assault. Between 17 and 
19 December the 801st lost 17 guns 
and 16 half-tracks. Indeed, the greatest 
combat value of the towed battalion 
came from the mines carried on the 
half-tracks (which were used with effect 
by adjacent riflemen) and the employ- 
ment of the gun crews as infantry. On 
the afternoon of 18 December, with 
guns and vehicles gone, the bulk of the 
battalion was ordered to Elsenborn. 
Even so there were a few instances when 
the towed guns were able to fight and 
make kills under favorable circum- 
stances. One gun from the 801st had 
been placed to cover a straggler line 
in the vicinity of Hiinningen and here, 
deep inside the American position, sur- 
prised and knocked out four Mark IV's 
before it was destroyed. 

The infantry antitank weapons em- 
ployed in the defense of Krinkelt-Roch- 
erath varied considerably in effectiveness. 
The 57-mm. battalion antitank guns— 
and their crews— simply were tank fod- 
der. The mobility of this towed piece, 
which had been a feature of the gun on 
design boards and in proving ground 
tests, failed in the mud at the forward 
positions. Only a very lucky shot could 
damage a Panther or Tiger, and at the 
close of this operation both the 2d and 
99th Divisions recommended the aboli- 
tion of the 57-mm. as an infantry anti- 
tank gun. The rifle battalions which 
were hurried south from Wahlerscheid 
on 17 December had left their mines 
in the forest or with the battalion 
trains. Even the few antitank mines 
on hand could not be put to proper 
use during the first night engagement 
when stragglers and vehicular columns 
were pouring along the same routes the 




Wrecked German Tank Showing "Bazooka Pants," a defense against rockets. 



enemy armor was using. In the first con- 
tact at the crossroads east of Rocherath 
the German tanks were halted by a hasty 
mine field, but the rifle company made 
its most effective use of this defense by 
laying mines to protect the rear of the 
American position after the tanks had 
rolled by. The bazooka in the hands of 
the defending infantry proved extremely 
useful. During the dark hours, bazooka 
teams were able to work close to their 
prey under the cover provided by walls, 
houses, and hedgerows. But, as in the case 
of the tank destroyers, most hits were 
scored against tanks which had paused or 
been stranded by the detonation of 



mines and high-explosive shellfire. In 
the various melees at the villages the 
German tank crews seldom escaped no 
matter what weapon was used against 
them. Most crewmen were burned as 
the tank blew up or they were cut down 
by bullet fire at close range. The gd 
Division, like most veteran divisions, 
had armed itself beyond the limits of 
approved tables of equipment. Nearly 
every rifle platoon, as a result, had at 
least two bazookas, so that team play 
to distract and then destroy the target 
tank was feasible. 

Although fought mostly as a series of 
close quarter actions, the infantry bat- 



128 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



tie in this sector saw little American 
use of the bayonet. Small arms and light 
machine guns took over where the 
friendly artillery left off, followed by 
grenades and rifle butts when the en- 
emy closed. The problem of illuminat- 
ing the scene of battle was partially 
solved by burning buildings and tanks. 
Illuminating shells fired by the 6o-mm. 
mortars had some local usefulness, but 
the precise co-ordination between in- 
fantry and artillery required for the 
effective use of star shell never was 
achieved in this battle. 

On 19 December German General 
Staff officers from the high headquarters 
of WFSt and OB WEST appeared in 
the battle zone to peer over the shoulders 
of the combat commanders and diagnose 
the irritating failure to achieve a com- 
plete breakthrough. The conclusions 
they reported (which obviously took 
no official account of stubborn Ameri- 
can resistance) were as follows. The 
check sustained in this sector could not 
be attributed to intervention by Allied 
air, an interesting reflection of the im- 
portance which Allied air-ground co- 
operation had assumed in German 
tactical thought by the end of 1944. The 
road net opened by the advance on 16 
December had not been put in good re- 
pair. This the observers attributed to a 
breakdown of the para-military Todt Or- 
ganization, whose labor groups were 
charged with the mission. Since the 
whole concept of the Todt Organiza- 
tion reached high into the realm of Nazi 
politics and personalities, this open 
animadversion is surprising and un- 
doubtedly caused some consternation. 
The chief source of failure, said the Gen- 
eral Staff observers, was the inadequate 



training of the troops who had been 
used in the attack. The conclusion 
reached as to the future conduct of op- 
erations on the Sixth Panzer Army 
front was simple enough and in ac- 
cordance with established German doc- 
trine: more maneuver room must be se- 
cured so that the attack could "unfold"; 
the entire Elsenborn area, therefore, 
must be won and at once. The right 
wing must be brought abreast of the 
ist SS Panzer Division, at this moment 
twenty miles to the west of Stoumont. 

This new plan, probably only a reflec- 
tion of conclusions already reached in 
the higher echelons, actually had gone 
into effect on 19 December when Ger- 
man tanks and infantry made the first 
serious attempt to drive northwest from 
Biillingen, shoulder the Americans out 
of the Butgenbach position, and open 
the Biillingen-Malmedy highway. 

The Enemy Tries the Western Flank 
19-2^ December 

In Butgenbach, forty-five hundred 
yards straight west of the 2d Division 
anchor point at Wirtzfeld, the 26th In- 
fantry of the 1st Division covered the 2d 
Division's flank and rear. The area be- 
tween the two villages was neutralized, 
insofar as any enemy operation was con- 
cerned, by a large lake and a series of 
streams. To build a defense in depth 
along the Biillingen-Butgenbach section 
of the Malmedy road and secure a 
place on high ground, the 2d Battalion 
had pushed forward to a ridge near 
Dom Butgenbach, a hamlet astride the 
highway. When the enemy failed to 
follow up his earlier sorties from Biil- 
lingen, American patrols scouted on 
the 18th in the direction of that village 



THE GERMAN NORTHERN SHOULDER IS JAMMED 



129 



and established that it still belonged to 
the Germans. 

The 26th Infantry held a none too fav- 
orable position. It was separated from its 
own division and could expect little help 
from the 99th, under which it had occu- 
pied Butgenbach, or from the 2d 
Division. Isolated action as a regimental 
combat team,' however, was not unknown 
in the regiment's history for it had been 
so committed in North Africa during the 
Kasserine fight and at Barrafranca in 
Sicily. Although the lake reservoir gave 
some protection on the left flank the 
position held by the forward battalion, 
the sd, protruded beyond this cover. 
The regimental right flank was bare— 
at least no infantry had been brought 
in to solidify this section of the line— 
and in theory the 26th Infantry was 
responsible for the defense of the four 
miles to the west between Butgenbach 
and the town of Weismes. 

Colonel Daniel's 2d Battalion, sticking 
out like a sore thumb ahead of the rest 
of the regiment, had arrived from the 
north in a depleted state, a condition en- 
demic throughout the 26th as a result of 
the very heavy losses sustained during the 
1st Division attack toward the Roer 
River early in December. There, on 
the fringe of the Hiirtgen Forest, Com- 
panies E and F had been virtually 
annihilated. Company G shattered. Now 
the 2d Battalion rifle companies were 
nine-tenths replacements and num- 
bered not more than a hundred men 
apiece. All told there were only seven 
officers in the battalion who had been 
on the roster at the beginning of 
December. Two of the heavy ma- 
chine gun platoons were manned by 
inexperienced gunners. There was a 
shortage of BAR's and grenade 



launchers. Fortunately, however, the 2d 
Battalion had been given ample time to 
prepare for defense. The rifle platoons 
had dug deep, covering the holes with 
logs and sandbags; wire was in to the 
33d Field Artillery Battalion, emplaced 
to give support; and the artillery observ- 
ers were dug in well forward. 

During the night of 18-19 December 
the / S5 Panzer Corps gathered in Biillin- 
gen the advance striking force designed 
for the attack against Butgenbach. It 
appears too that the forward command 
post of the 12th SS Panzer Division 
opened in Biillingen to direct the coming 
fight. At least one battalion of the 2^th 
SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment had 
arrived, plus a few tanks. The bulk of the 
division kampfgruppe which had fought 
at the twin villages was coming up by 
way of Losheimergraben. The tanks had 
an especially hard time on the road, 
which had been reduced to a river of 
mud (German officers later reported 
tanks along the route which had churned 
down nearly to their decks) . In addition 
to the advance detachment and recon- 
naissance units of the 12th SS Panzer Di- 
vision, the Biillingen force was swelled 
during the night by the 2'jth Fuesilier 
Regiment and 12th Fuesilier Battalion^ 
both of the 12th Folks Grenadier Divi- 
sioU; but the ranks of the latter units had 
been severely reduced during the fight 
for Losheimergraben. 

About 0225 on the 19th some twenty 
truckloads of German infantry dismount- 
ed just west of Biillingen, deployed be- 
hind a dozen tanks, and moved against 
the 2d Battalion. The 33d Field Artillery 
Battalion opened up at once with illu- 
minating shell, then poured in white 
phosphorus and high explosive. Some of 
the enemy tanks mired down before they 



130 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



could reach the American line; others 
were discouraged by bazooka and battal- 
ion antitank gunfire. Three tanks, how- 
ever, kept on along the road leading into 
Dom Butgenbach until the 155-mm. 
howitzers of the 5th Field Artillery Bat- 
talion began to lob HE uncomfortably 
close. Possibly crippled by concussion, 
the tanks were abandoned but the crews 
got away. 

The next German attack, at 1010, con- 
sisted of attempts in company strength to 
find weak points in the 1,800-yard line 
occupied by the 2d Battalion. One of 
these, against Company G, was broken 
up by shells fired in by four battalions of 
field artillery. A Panther and an armored 
scout car got through. Then a 57-mm. 
antitank gun crew crippled both, but the 
scout car got off one round that killed the 
crew, Cpl. Hale Williams and Pvt. Rich- 
ard Wollenberg. However, the armored 
threat was ended at this point. On the 
east flank two of the battalion's antitank 
guns got the two leading tanks, and ma- 
chine gun and mortar fire drove off the 
accompanying infantry. This action 
ended the first German attempt at crack- 
ing the Butgenbach block. The next 
would wait upon the assembly of the 
troops and vehicles slowly gathering at 
Biillingen, where the // SS Panzer Corps 
had taken over direction of the battle. 

On 18 and 19 December the Para- 
chute Division, which had been follow- 
ing in the wake of the ist SS Panzer 
Division westward, began to concentrate 
south of Weismes. It may be that the 
Parachute Division thus far had received 
no orders as to the projected widening 
of the Sixth Panzer Army corridor of ad- 
vance and was content with holding a 
blocking position along the German 
flank as originally planned. As it was, 



American reinforcements arrived in the 
Weismes area on ig December before the 
enemy struck. 

The 16th Infantry (Col. Frederick W. 
Gibb) was the second regimental combat 
team of the 1st Division to take its place 
in the barrier being erected on the north- 
ern shoulder of the expanding German 
salient. The 2d Battalion, leading the 
south-moving column, was well set in 
Weismes when, in the late afternoon of 
19 December, the ^d Parachute Division 
commenced desultory jabs at the village. 
At the same time the balance of the 16th 
Infantry detrucked and swelled out the 
Weismes front, making contact to the 
west with troops of the veteran 30th In- 
fantry Division which had just come into 
the Malmedy sector. By the evening of 
19 December, then, the 1st Infantry Di- 
vision had neighbors on either flank and 
its 26th Infantry, although still out in 
front, could concentrate on the enemy 
force building up at Biillingen. 

During the night of 19-20 December 
the advance kampfgruppe of the 12th 
SS Panzer Division and the bulk of one 
regiment from the 12th Folks Grenadier 
Division completed their assembly. 
About 0600 twenty German tanks and a 
rifle battalion converged on Dom But- 
genbach in the early morning fog and 
mist from south and east. The front lit 
up as the American mortars and artil- 
lery shot illuminating shell over the 
roads leading to the village. Concen- 
tration after concentration then plunged 
down, three battalions of field artillery 
and a 90-mm. battery of antiaircraft 
artillery firing as fast as the pieces 
could be worked. The enemy infantry, 
punished by this fire and the stream 
of bullets from the American foxhole 
line, wavered but a handful of tanks 



THE GERMAN NORTHERN SHOULDER IS JAMMED 



131 



rolled off the roads and into Dom 
Butgenbach. (They had shot down three 
bazooka teams and a Company H ma- 
chine gun section.) Here, in the dark, 
battalion antitank guns placed to defend 
the 2d Battalion command post went to 
work firing point-blank at the exhaust 
flashes as the German vehicles passed. 
Two enemy tanks were holed and the 
rest fled the village, although the anti- 
tank gun crews suffered at the hands of 
the German bazooka teams that had fil- 
tered in with the tanks. 

A second try came just before dawn, 
this time straight down the road from 
Biillingen. Ten German tanks in single 
file were sighted as they came over a 
slight ridge to the front of Company F. 
Two tank destroyers and three antitank 
guns drove the tanks off or at least 
caused them to turn west in search of a 
weaker spot in the 2d Battalion defenses. 
In the next thrust a platoon of Company 
G was badly cut up before friendly artil- 
lery finally checked the attack. Fifteen 
minutes later, apparently still seeking a 
hole, the Germans hit Company E, next 
in line to the west. The 60-mm. mortars 
illuminated the ground in front of the 
company at just the right moment and 
two of three tanks heading the assault 
were knocked out by bazooka and 57- 
mm. fire from the flank. The third tank 
commander stuck his head out of the 
escape hatch to take a look around and 
was promptly pistoled by an American 
corporal. 1° By this time shellfire had scat- 
tered the German infantry. Nor did the 

" This was Cpl. Henry F. Warner, one of the 
57-mm. antitank gunners. He fought the Ger- 
man tanks for two days, often by himself, and 
destroyed three panzers, but finally was killed 
by a machine gun burst from one of the panzers 
he was stalking. Warner was awarded the Medal 
of Honor. 



enemy make another try until dusk, and 
then only with combat patrols. 

The hardest blows dealt the 2d Bat- 
talion defenders at Dom Butgenbach 
came on 21 December. After repeated 
pleas from the 12th SS Panzer the guns 
and Werfers which had been used at 
Krinkelt-Rocherath were committed, and 
the entire 2^th Panzer Grenadier Regi- 
ment was also made available, as well as 
one battalion or more of the 12th SS 
Panzer Regiment. About three hours be- 
fore dawn guns, mortars, tanks, and 
Werfers began pounding the American 
foxhole line, which was outlined by a 
double row of trees, and the few houses 
in Dom Butgenbach. This fire continued 
unremittingly until the first light in the 
east, inflicting many casualties, destroy- 
ing weapons by direct hits, and tearing 
large gaps in the main line of resistance. 
American counterbattery fire was intense 
but failed to still the enemy shelling. 
Now, as the Germans crossed the fields 
in assault formation, the American for- 
ward observers called for a defensive bar- 
rage to box their own front lines. At 
least ten field artillery battalions ulti- 
mately joined the fight (for this batteries 
of the 2d and 99th Divisions were tied 
into the 1st Division fire control system) 
and succeeded in discouraging the Ger- 
man infantry. 

Some panzers and assault guns did 
make their way through the storm of ex- 
ploding shells and against the 2d Battal- 
ion right. During the previous night two 
platoons of the regimental antitank com- 
pany had taken station here right on the 
foxhole line and surprised the panzers 
with fire at no more than 100 yards. 
Two or three kills were inflicted by the 
1st Platoon, but other tanks quickly shot 
down the 57-mm. crews and then over- 



132 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



ran the guns of the 2d Platoon.^^ At this 
segment o£ the 2d Battalion main line of 
resistance the foxhole line followed a 
long hedgerow. Having broken through 
and destroyed the American antitank 
guns, the German tankers drove along 
the hedgerows searching out the auto- 
matic weapons which earlier had helped 
check the infantry assault. Undefended 
against moving steel, the BAR and ma- 
chine gun crews were wiped out. 

Through this gaping hole on the 2d 
Battalion right more tanks appeared as 
the morning progressed and moved down 
the slope toward Dom Butgenbach. A 
self-propelled tank destroyer belonging 
to the 634th Tank Destroyer Battalion 
accounted for seven tanks in succession 
as these, in column, hove in sight over 
the ridge line. Two Sherman tanks, ly- 
ing close to a barn, got two of the Ger- 
mans before they, in turn, were knocked 
out. Three of the enemy reached the 
cluster of buildings and fired point- 
blank into the houses and barns Colo- 
nel Daniel and the 2d Battalion com- 
mand post group were defending. Every 
device was used to reach the tanks but 
with no success until, finding it warm, 
two made a break for the open and 
were stopped by a section of 90-mm. 
tank destroyers which had just come 
up. The last tank was flushed out 
from behind a barn by 81 -mm. mortar 
fire but got away. 

The battalion mortars had played an 
important role all along the line (one 
section firing 750 rounds before its posi- 
tion was blasted by close-range tank fire) , 
and so had every American weapon that 
could be brought to bear. But in late 
afternoon, when the German assault was 



dwindling, the 2d Battalion commander 
paid the infantryman's heartfelt compli- 
ment to the guns. "The artillery did a 
great job. I don't know where they got 
the ammo or when they took time out to 
flush the guns but we wouldn't be here 
now if it wasn't for them. ... A hun- 
dred [Germans] . . . came at one platoon 
and not one of them got through." 
The regimental cannon company, the 1st 
Division Artillery, the 406th Field Artil- 
lery Group, and reinforcing batteries 
from the 2d and 99th Divisions fired over 
ten thousand rounds in support of the 
Dom Butgenbach defenders during an 
eight-hour shoot on the 21st, plastering 
enemy assembly areas and the road net 
and plowing up the fields across which 
the German attack came. For one period 
of three hours all communication be- 
tween the hard-pressed rifle battalion 
and the artillery broke under German 
fire, but the American shells continued 
to arrive with devastating effect. A patrol 
sent into the woods from which had come 
the final assault against the riddled bat- 
talion flank reported a count of three 
hundred dead enemy infantry— the rea- 
son, perhaps, why the tanks that pene- 
trated to the 2d Battalion command post 
came alone. At any rate the 12th Folks 
Grenadier Division had had enough. 
The division commander told his supe- 
riors that no more attacks could be made 
unless a promised assault gun battalion 
arrived to ramrod the infantry. The total 
German casualty list must have been 
high, and after these three days of battle 
heavy inroads had been made in the tank 
strength of the 12th SS Panzer Regi- 
ment. 

The 2d Battalion, understrength 



^'^Sgt. I. R. Schwartz received the DSC for gal- 
lantry in this action. 



Colonel Daniel himself received the DSC. 



THE GERMAN NORTHERN SHOULDER IS JAMMED 



133 



when it arrived to face the Germans, had 
been reduced by perhaps one quarter. 
Indeed, in midafternoon of the 21st, the 
battalion commander had planned with- 
drawing a thousand yards to the rear to 
compensate for the dwindling strength in 
the firing line. But when the 2d reorgan- 
ized that evening its position was some- 
what strengthened. Company C, with 
extra bazookas, had come up to man the 
denuded right flank, the ist Engineer 
Combat Battalion laid a hasty field of 
about a thousand mines in front of the 
lines, and the regiment had attached the 
4.2-inch mortars of the 2d Division 
chemical battalion to Daniel's com- 
mand. 

Meanwhile the enemy regrouped to 
continue the attack with new forces. The 
armored infantry reserve of the 12th SS 
Panzer Division, the 26th Panzer Grena- 
dier Regiment, finally had negotiated the 
poor roads and traffic jams along the Ger- 
man line of communications and arrived 
in Biillingen, ready for its first commit- 
ment in the offensive. Shortly after day 
broke on 22 December patrols from the 
26th commenced to probe at the 2d Bat- 
talion lines. The fresh enemy regiment, 
however, set out to vary the unsuccessful 
headlong tactics previously employed by 
striking at the flanks of the Dom Butgen- 
bach position. The first assault, shortly 
before 1000, carried an undetermined 
number of panzer grenadiers through a 
gap between Companies A and K, on the 
right of the 2d Battalion. Here there 
were about twenty Mark V's and tank 
destroyers, but the 90-mm. tank de- 
stroyers from the 613th Tank Destroyer 
Battalion rushed in on the flank and 
stopped the enemy. The continued 
threat, though serious, was countered 
by shifting local reserves from the 



18th and 26th to close the gap, and by 
the end of the day the situation was well 
in hand. Again the American gunners 
had taken over a large share of the 
burden, firing over 300 missions. The 
co-operation between the artillery and 
infantry arms, it must be said, was re- 
ciprocal. The fact that the 26th Infantry 
had continued to hold its position on 
ground overlooking the German routes 
west had allowed the observers a grand- 
stand seat and had caused the German 
columns taking the ist SS Panzer Divi- 
sion detour through Schoppen to run a 
gantlet of accurate and continuous fire. 

The successful withdrawal from the 
Krinkelt-Rocherath sector to the more 
favorable terrain of the Elsenborn ridge 
had resulted, by 20 December, in a fairly 
homogeneous and well-constructed de- 
fense with the 2d Division on the right 
and the 99th Division on the left. On the 
morning of this same day the 9th Infan- 
try Division took over the Monschau- 
Hofen sector (its 47th Infantry had 
moved earlier into supporting position 
west of these two towns) and so covered 
the northern flank of the 99th. 

The German attempt to crack the 
newly formed north-south line was han- 
dled in catch-as-catch-can and piecemeal 
fashion, for the primary mission was the 
flanking maneuver in the Butgenbach 
area. The Panzer Grenadier Division, 
which had relieved the 12th SS Panzer 
Division at the twin villages, went to 
work at once against the 99th Division 
portion of the Elsenborn line although 
the bulk of its rifle strength was not yet 
in hand. On the morning of 20 Decem- 
ber German tanks and infantry made 
the first of three assaults. But the 99th, 
on a forward slope with perfect visibility 
and good fields of fire, checked this and 



134 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



the subsequent attempts with heavy 
losses to the attacker. On the following 
day, the Panzer Grenadier was caught 
by artillery fire just as its assault waves 
were forming. Confused and disorgan- 
ized, the German infantry were unable 
to make another bid. 

Farther north, on 22 December, the 
2'jyth Volks Grenadier Division returned 
to the fray after licking the wounds it 
had suffered at Krinkelt-Rocherath and 
adding some companies of the 2()th Pan- 
zer Grenadier Regiment (^d Panzer 
Grenadier Division). Early in the morn- 
ing two companies from the 277 i/z made 
a sharp attack to gain the high ground 
east of Kalterherberg occupied by the 
99th Reconnaissance Troop. No friendly 
artillery was ranged in and the German 
infantry marched through a mine field, 
crossed a stream under direct bullet fire, 
and drove through the extended cavalry 
line. Two of the cavalry platoons were 
encircled and the attack carried for a 
thousand yards before Company E of the 
47th Infantry and the remaining troop- 
ers were able to halt it. Apparently 
intent on driving as deeply to the Amer- 
ican rear as possible, the grenadiers gave 
the encircled platoons a breathing spell 
and with nightfall the Americans suc- 
ceeded in escaping. The fight spread to 
the 39th Infantry during the afternoon 
when small groups of the enemy began 
to infiltrate. Reinforcements brought 
forward under a smoke screen nourished 
the German assault, which by nightfall 
had won a foothold inside the American 
main line of resistance.^^ 



"During the German assault Sgt. Peter J. Dales- 
sandro of Company E saved his company from 
complete rout by a last-ditch stand with grenades 
and an abandoned machine gun. When he could 
hold no longer, the sergeant called for a moriar 



During the night of 22 December an 
artillery bombardment prepared the way 
for German infiltration elsewhere on the 
9th Division front. But when day broke 
the Americans drove the enemy back 
after a series of short fire fights and re- 
stored the line in its entirety. The 
Volks Grenadier Division no longer 
possessed the strength to make a real 
effort against the north wing of the 
Elsenborn line. The ^26th Volks Gren- 
adier Division, its northern neighbor, 
had given no hand in this fight— not 
surprising in view of the punishment 
taken at Hofen and Monschau. Both 
divisions now fell out of the drive to 
widen the way west. The surest signal 
of the failure on the right wing of the 
Sixth Panzer Army was the ignominious 
end of the attack in the Butgenbach sec- 
tor,. On the morning of 23 December the 
18th Infantry barred the gap which had 
opened the day before on the right of 
the 26th Infantry— and the 12th SS Pan- 
zer Division threw in the sponge. 

Maj. Gen. Leonard T. Gerow's V 
Corps now had four infantry divisions, 
the 9th, 99th, 2d, and 1st, standing firmly 
on well-organized ground from Mon- 
schau to Weismes. The barrier so pre- 
sented would restrict and straitjacket the 
northern shoulder of the German salient, 
at this moment still expanding to the 
west. The question remained as to 
whether, at a later date, the Sixth Pan- 
zer Army would or could shake this 
shoulder free. As it stood, the 1st and 9th 
Divisions were given time to concentrate 
and regroup their hastily committed reg- 
iments, while the 2d and 99th set about 
the business of acquiring replacements 
for lost men and weapons, gaining a 

barrage right on his own position. He was awarded 
the Medal of Honor. 



THE GERMAN NORTHERN SHOULDER IS JAMMED 



135 



breather after days of savage and costly 
conflict. On the enemy side the LXVII 
Corps took over control of the line Mon- 
schau-Weismes with the 3d Panzer Gren- 
adier, 12th Volks Grenadier, 3d Para- 
chute, 2yyth, and 326th}* 

The American troops who had 
jammed the right shoulder of the Sixth 
Panzer Army knew they had made a fight 
of it. They could hardly know that they 
had knocked a part of Hitler's personal 
operations plan into a cocked hat. The 
elite SS panzer formations on which the 

" See below, pp. 579-80. 



Fuehrer so relied would continue to play 
a major role in the Ardennes counter- 
offensive but no longer would be charged 
with the main effort; this had passed on 
20 December to Manteuffel and the 
Fifth Panzer Army}^ And if, as Manteuf- 
fel later suggested, the Fuehrer wanted 
to see an SS and a regular panzer army 
competing, it could be said that he had 
his answer. 



" This decision was made about noon on the 
aoth, probably by Model supported by Rundstedt, 
but this is not certain. OB WEST KTB, 20 Dec 
44. 



CHAPTER VII 

Breakthrough at the Schnee Eifel 



Introductory Note 

The story of the io6th Infantry Divi- 
sion and the attached 14th Cavalry 
Group is tragic. It is also highly contro- 
versial. Since the major part of the 
division was eliminated from combined 
operations with other American forces 
on the second day of the German coun- 
teroffensive, information from contem- 
porary records is scanty and, as 
to particulars, often completely lacking. 
The historian, as a result, must tread 
warily through the maze of recrimina- 
tion and highly personalized recollection 
which surrounds this story. It should not 
be concluded that reminiscence by those 
caught up in this disaster is consciously 
tendentious. But the officers and rnen of 
the io6th Division who so narrowly es- 
caped the German trap or who spent 
months in German prisons would be less 
than human if they did not seek to dis- 
cover the cause of this debacle in either 
human error or frailty. Since the author 
has been forced to depend in so great 
degree on the human memory, unaided 
or unchallenged by the written record, 
the scholar's old rule "one witness, no 
witness" has been generally applied. 
Even so, some relaxation of the rule is 
necessary if a sustained and sequential 
narrative is to be presented. Fortunately, 
the picture as seen from the German side 
of the Schnee Eifel is fairly complete 



and can be applied as a corrective in 
most of the major areas of controversy 
and contradiction.* 



* The records and reports of the io6th Division 
and the 424th Infantry are intact although rather 
scanty in content. The records of the 422d and 
423d were destroyed before the capture of these 
regiments, but the Historical Division, ETO, did 
interview a large number of officers and men from 
these regiments when they were released from 
German prisons. First Army conducted Inspector 
General investigations of the actions of the io6th 
Division, the 820th Tank Destroyer Battalion, the 
106th Reconnaissance Troop, and the 14th Cavalry 
Group. Most of the records of the 14th Cavalry 
Group were destroyed but the commanding offi- 
cer. Col. Mark Devine, provided the author with 
some personal papers. The VIII Corps after ac- 
tion report and G-2 and G-3 journals are very 
useful for the relations between corps and division. 
Participants in this battle made special reports 
for the Advanced Infantry Officers Course No. 1 
(Maj. William P. Moon, Maj. J. C. HoUinger, 
and Capt. Alan W. Jones, Jr.) See also, the 275th 
Armored Field Artillery Battalion journal and 
S-2 report. Col. R. Ernest Dupuy has written a 
very good semiofficial history entitled, St. Vith: 
Lion in the Way, the io6th Infantry Division in 
World War II (Washington: Infantry Journal 
Press, 1949) . Dupuy's work has been heavily 
drawn on, but the reader will find several points 
at which Dupuy and the present account differ. 
The German manuscripts are very detailed and 
useful; see particularly MSS # B-026, Effects of 
Ardennes Offensive on Army Group G (SS Gen- 
eraloberst Waften-SS Paul Hauser); B-688 (incor- 
porating B-734), i8th Volks Grenadier Division, 1 
September 1944-25 January 1945 (Lt. Col. Dietrich 
Moll); A-924 (Kraemer); B-333, LXVI Corps, 
October-23 December 1944 (General der A'rtillerie 
Walter Lucht) . 



BREAKTHROUGH AT THE SCHNEE EIFEL 



137 



Dispositions of the 
106th Infantry Division 

From the Eifel plateau protrude three 
distinct ridges or ranges, the central be- 
ing called the Schnee Eifel. This middle 
ridge, so important in the action that 
developed in the io6th Division sector, 
inclines northeast-southwest. At the west- 
ern foot of the Schnee Eifel there runs a 
long narrow valley incised in the high 
plain, the so-called Losheim Gap. On the 
western side of the gap the Our River 
meanders along, and beyond the river to 
the west the plateau appears once more 
in heavily wooded form. The Losheim 
Gap is no pleasant, pastoral valley but is 
cluttered by abrupt hills, some bare, 
others covered by fir trees and thick 
undergrowth. Most of the little villages 
here are found in the draws and potholes 
which further scoop out the main valley. 
The Losheim Gap was occupied on 16 
December by a reinforced squadron of 
the 14th Cavalry Group. {Map III) 

The fate of the io6th Infantry Divi- 
sion and the 14th Cavalry Group was 
bound together on that day by official 
orders attaching the cavalry to the infan- 
try, by circumstances of terrain, and by 
the German plan of attack. To the 
left of the cavalry group ran the bound- 
ary between the VHI Corps and V 
Corps, its northern neighbor being the 
99th Infantry Division. To the right 
of the io6th lay the 28th Division, con- 
stituting the center of General Middle- 
ton's corps. The io6th itself occupied the 
central and southern sections of the 
heavily forested Schnee Eifel. 

American successes some weeks earlier 
had driven the enemy from a part of the 
West Wall positions along the Schnee 
Eifel, creating a salient which jutted 



deep into the German lines. Although 
such a salient was exposed, the possession 
of at least a wedge in the West Wall 
seemed to compensate for the risk in- 
volved. It should be noticed that the 
Schnee Eifel range is terminated in the 
south by a cross corridor, running against 
the usual north to south grain of the 
Eifel plateau. This is the valley of the 
Alf, a small creek which makes a long 
horse-shoe bend around the Schnee Eifel 
east to the village of Pronsfeld. 

Three main roads run through this 
area. From the crossroads village of Hall- 
schlag the northernmost descends into 
the Our valley, crossing and recrossing 
the river until it reaches St. Vith. The 
center road, secondary in construction, 
traverses the Losheim Gap from Roth 
southwestward. The southernmost road 
follows the valley of the Alf from Priim, 
but eventually turns through Winter- 
spelt toward the northwest and St. Vith. 
Thus two main roads, of macadam con- 
struction and some twenty-two feet wide, 
ran through the American positions 
directly to St. Vith. These roads were 
characteristic of the eastern Ardennes, 
winding, with many blind tiirns, 
squeezing through narrow village streets, 
dipping abruptly, and rising suddenly 
across the ravines. But each of the roads 
to St. Vith circles around the Schnee 
Eifel at one of its termini. 

The width of the sector held by the 
io6th Infantry Division and the attached 
14th Cavalry Group was approximately 
eighteen air-line miles. When traced on 
the ground, the line these forces were 
responsible for defending was actually 
more than twenty-one miles in length. 
The 14th Cavalry Group (Col. Mark 
Devine) was charged with a 9,000-yard 
front in the 106th Division sector along 



138 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



the line Lanzerath-Krewinkel-Roth- 
Kobscheid. This disposition placed the 
cavalry to the north of the Schnee Eifel 
and across the northeastern entrance to 
the Losheim Gap. The section of the 
West Wall which barred egress from the 
gap lay beyond the cavalry positions. 

The dispositions of the io6th Infantry 
Division (Maj. Gen. Alan W. Jones) 
followed an irregular line which in gen- 
eral trended from northeast to southwest. 
The 422d Infantry (Col. George L. 
Descheneaux, Jr.) occupied the forward 
positions of the West Wall on the crest 
and western slopes of the midsection of 
the Schnee Eifel. This regiment and the 
cavalry, therefore, combined as defend- 
ers of a salient protruding beyond the 
neighbors to the north and south. The 
line occupied by the 423d Infantry (Col. 
Charles C. Cavender) continued briefly 
on the Schnee Eifel, then as this range 
dropped away swung back into the west- 
ern portion of the Alf valley. Thence 
followed a gap screened by the division 
reconnaissance troop. The 424th Infan- 
try (Col. Alexander D. Reid) continued 
the bend to the west at Grosslangenfeld 
add joined the 28th Infantry Division, 
at least by periodic patrols, north of 
Liitzkampen. 

On 19 October the 18th Cavalry Re- 
connaissance Squadron had taken over 
the positions in the Losheim Gap from 
another cavalry squadron attached to the 
2d Infantry Division with instructions to 
occupy the infantry positions then exist- 
ing. The 14th Cavalry Group took over 
the sector on 1 1 December, using the 
18th and a company of 3-inch towed 
tank destroyers much as they had been 
deployed' earlier. The ground occupied 
by the cavalry was relatively flat here at 
the mouth of the gap, although broken 



by streams and knotted by hills as is 
common on the Ardennes plateau. In 
contrast to the ridge lines the floor of the 
gap had a few trees. The infantry posi- 
tions inherited by the cavalry were in 
the little villages, most of which had 
been built in depressions offering some 
protection against the raw winds which 
sweep the Ardennes. There were eight 
garrison points; a homogeneous defense 
line, of course, was out of the question. 
In addition, there existed sulastantial 
gaps on both flanks of the cavalry. In 
the north the gap between the 14th 
Cavalry Group and the 99th Infantry 
Division was approximately two miles 
across. A small party from the attached 
tank destroyer outfit (Company A, 
820th Tank Destroyer Battalion) 
patrolled this opening at two-hour inter- 
vals in conjunction with an I and R Pla- 
toon from the 99th Division. There was 
an unoccupied strip between the right 
of the cavalry and the left of the 422d In- 
fantry about one and a half miles across; 
the responsibility for patrolling here was 
given to the infantry. 

At best the cavalry positions could only 
be described as small islands of resist- 
ance, manned usually in platoon 
strength and depending on automatic 
weapons dismounted from the cavalry 
vehicles or on the towed 3-inch guns 
of the tank destroyer company. Some 
barbed wire had been strung around 
the garrison villages. Mine fields, both 
German and American, were known to 
be in the area, but neither the 14th 
Cavalry Group nor the 2d Infantry 
Division before it could chart their 
location. On 14 December Colonel De- 
vine had asked corps for engineers and 
more mines. 

Contrary to the doctrine and training 



BREAKTHROUGH AT THE SCHNEE EIFEL 



139 



of mechanized cavalry, the 14th Cavalry 
Group was committed to a positional 
defense. Since the cavalry squadron 
does not have the staying power for 
defense in depth, and since the width of 
this front made an interlocking linear 
defense impossible, the 14th— if hit hard 
—was at best capable only of delaying 
action. Lacking the freedom of maneuver 
usually accorded cavalry, the 14th Cav- 
alry Group would have little hope of 
winning time by counterattack. The gad 
Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, re- 
fitting near Vielsalm, Belgium, was avail- 
able on short notice to reinforce the rest 
of the cavalry group; its officers had 
reconnoitered forward positions and 
telephone wire had been laid in at a few 
points. There seems to have been no 
specific plan for the employment of the 
32d Squadron. Colonel Devine and his 
staff, during the few days available, had 
worked out a general defensive plan 
giving specific routes of withdrawal and 
successive defense lines. Apparently this 
plan was finished on the night of 15 De- 
cember but was never circulated. 

The staff of the cavalry group was 
evidently familiar with the defensive 
plan worked out earlier by the 2d Divi- 
sion which, in the Losheim area, called 
for an initial withdrawal to the Mander- 
feld ridge and an American counter- 
attack by forces taken from the Schnee 
Eifel. During the brief attachment of the 
14th Cavalry Group to the 106th Divi- 
sion no comparable plan to support the 
forces on the low ground in the gap by 
withdrawing troops from the more 
readily defended line on the Schnee 
Eifel was ever issued, although Colonel 
Devine had made several trips to the 
106th on this matter. The 2d Division 
also had an artillery plan which provided 



for approximately 200 prearranged con- 
centrations to be fired on call in the gap. 
There is no evidence that this plan was 
taken over by the io6th Division artil- 
lery (which would have had to shift its 
battalions) , but the cavalry did have one 
battalion of 105 -mm. howitzers, the 
275th Armored (Lt. Col. Roy Udell 
Clay) , in support about two and a half 
miles west of Manderfeld. 

Much of the subsequent story of events 
in the Losheim Gap and the Schnee 
Eifel turns on the relations between the 
106th Division and the 14th Cavalry 
Group. The brief span of their acquaint- 
ance is therefore pertinent. On 20 Octo- 
ber the 106th Division shipped from the 
United States. On 1 1 December it as- 
sumed its first combat role, taking over 
the quiet sector on the left of the VIII 
Corps where the veteran 2d Infantry 
Division had been resting. The relief 
was completed a day later. The 18th 
Cavalry Squadron had been in the gap 
positions since 19 October, less B Troop 
which was deployed on the south flank 
of the 2d Division and which remained 
in that area when the io6th arrived. Gen- 
eral Robertson, the 2d Division com- 
mander, had long regarded the single 
cavalry squadron as insufficient to cover 
the Losheim Gap and had centered his 
sole divisional reserve, a reinforced in- 
fantry battalion, in the vicinity of Auw 
so as to support either the cavalry or 
infantry. Robertson's recommendations 
finally were noticed and on 1 1 December 
the io6th Division had attached to it a 
full cavalry reconnaissance group instead 
of only the one squadron. But time to 
organize the defense of the individual 
sectors of the io6th Division, much less 
to co-ordinate over-all defensive plans 
and preparations, was short. 



140 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



The io6th Infantry Division had been 
activated in March 1943. Early in 1944 
the division took part in the Tennessee 
maneuvers, but its training program (as 
in the case of many new divisions) was 
more or less vitiated when some 60 per- 
cent of the enlisted strength was drained 
off to meet the heavy demands for 
trained infantry before and after D-day. 
When the 106th Division relieved the 2d 
Division on 11-12 December, freeing 
the latter for use in the proposed V 
Corps attack to seize the Roer River 
dams, it moved into well-prepared posi- 
tions and a fairly quiet front. The 
veteran 2d Division had protected its 
front-line units against the bitter Ar- 
dennes weather with log dugouts for the 
rifle and weapon squads. Stoves were in 
the squad huts and the kitchen ranges 
were up front in covered dugouts. Heavy 
weapons were exchanged, the 106th 
taking over the .50-caliber machine guns, 
mortars, and other weapons where they 
had been emplaced in order to conceal 
the relief from the enemy. The extensive 
communications net prepared by the 2d 
Division, with wire to almost every squad 
and outpost, was left to the 106th, but 
unlike its predecessor the 106th had few 
sound-powered telephones. 

Before his departure the 2d Division 
commander handed over his defensive 
scheme and briefed the incoming com- 
mander and staff. Because General 
Robertson had looked upon the Losheim 
Gap as particularly sensitive, the 2d Di- 
vision defensive and counterattack plans 
laid special emphasis on support for 
troops in that sector. In brief, the 2d 
Division planned to pull the forces in 
the gap back to the Manderfeld ridge 
while the two regimental combat teams 
on the Schnee Eifel would withdraw 



west to a shortened line along the Auw- 
Bleialf ridge road, thus freeing onie 
combat team for counterattack in the 
north. Local counterattack plans pre- 
pared by regiments and battalions like- 
wise were handed over. From 1 2 through 
15 December the 106th Division com- 
mander and staff reconnoitered the new 
area; then, after a conference with the 
VIII Corps commander, they began 
study on detailed recommendations for 
a more adequate defense. These were 
never completed or submitted although 
General Jones did make oral requests to 
alter his deployment. 

In the circumstances then existing, 
adequate measures to cope with the 
problem of such an extended front 
would have required one of two things: 
substantial reinforcement or withdrawal 
to a shorter line. Some five weeks earlier 
General Middleton had acted to reduce 
the Schnee Eifel salient by withdrawing 
the 23d Infantry (2d Division) from its 
forward positions in the West Wall. It 
was into this new westward sector on the 
right flank of the salient that the 424th 
Infantry moved— even so, the regiment 
took over a front of nearly six miles. 
Middleton was under compulsion from 
higher headquarters to retain the Schnee 
Eifel salient and the existing dispositions 
of the two regiments therein. There 
were plans afoot for an attack toward 
Bonn, as part of the forthcoming Allied 
offensive, and the gap in the West Wall 
represented by this salient would be ex- 
tremely useful in any sortie against 
Bonn. 

Besides the 14th Cavalry Group the 
106th Division possessed the conven- 
tional attached units: a tank destroyer 
battalion (the 820th) and an antiair- 
craft battalion (the 634th Automatic 



BREAKTHROUGH AT THE SCHNEE EIFEL 



141 



Weapons) . In addition to the 275th Ar- 
mored Field Artillery Battalion, sup- 
porting the cavalry, eight battalions o£ 
corps artillery were in position to rein- 
force the 106th Division artillery by fire 
when called.^ These battalions repre- 
sented the bulk of the VIII Corps 
artillery. 

The road net within the division area 
and to its front was limited and in poor 
condition, but this was an endemic con- 
dition in the Ardennes, particularly dur- 
ing winter months. The macadam 
stretches required constant mending 
and the dirt roads quickly sank away 
where not shored up with logs and 
stone. But though transit by heavy vehic- 
ular columns was difficult it was by no 
means impossible— as the event proved. 
Four avenues of penetration were open 
to a road-bound enemy. All four would 
be used. Following from north to south, 
they were: (1) Hallschlag, southwest 
through Manderfeld (the 14th Cavalry 
Group command post) and Schonberg 
(at this point crossing the Our River) , 
thence to St. Vith; (2) a secondary road 
from Roth, west through Auw, then to 
Schonberg or Bleialf; (3) Priim (a large 
German communications center) north- 
west to Bleialf and on to Schonberg; (4) 
Pronsfeld, directly northwest through 
Habscheid and Winterspelt to the Our 
River bridges at Steinebriick, then on to 
St. Vith. These roads, following the 
natural channels around and west of the 
Schnee Eifel, extend across the Our 
River by way of bridges at Andler, 
Schonberg, and Steinebriick. St Vith is 
the funnel through which the roads 
coming from the Our pass to the west. 

The degree to which the green 106th 

^ These were the 770th, 965th, 333d, 771st, 559th, 
561st, 578th, and 740th Field Artillery Battalions. 



Division had been acclimatized to its new 
surroundings by the morning of 16 De- 
cember is impossible to determine. The 
arduous truck journey across France and 
Belgium, through bitter cold and cling- 
ing damp, must have been dispiriting to 
untried troops. The front-line shelters in 
which the veterans of the 2d Infantry 
Division had made themselves relatively 
comfortable probably did little more 
than take the raw edge off the miserable 
weather prevalent when the 106 th 
marched to the bunkers, foxholes, and 
dugouts. By 15 December a number of 
trench foot cases already had occurred, 
particularly in the 42 2d Infantry, which 
had been the last regiment to draw over- 
shoes. 

The extent to which the division was 
armed to defend itself is also a matter 
of debate. All units had the normal basic 
load of ammunition on hand, although 
there seems to have been a shortage of 
carbine and bazooka rounds. The near- 
est ammunition supply point was at 
Noville, over forty miles southwest of 
St. Vith, making resupply slow and diffi- 
cult. Jones had requested antitank mines 
but these were not delivered in time. A 
thin, linear defense such as that inherited 
in the Schnee Eifel required an extraor- 
dinary number of automatic weapons. 
Although by this time the veteran ETO 
divisions were carrying BAR's and light 
machine guns far in excess of authorized 
allowances, the io6th Division possessed 
only the regulation number and type of 
issue weapons— fewer than were needed 
to organize a twenty-one mile front. On 
the whole, however, the io6th seems to 
have entered the line with a high state 
of morale; had it not exchanged the 
tedium of training and "show-down" in- 
spections for the excitement of an active 



142 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



theater of operations where victory was 
always the American portion? 

Enemy Preparations for Another 
Cannae 

Late in November 1944 General 
Lucht, commander of the LXVI Corps 
was called to the headquarters of the 
Fifth Panzer Army. Here Manteuffel 
told him of the coming offensive in the 
Ardennes and said that his corps would 
form the army right wing. The corps' 
mission, in brief, would be to bypass the 
Schnee Eifel on either side, seize the 
road net at St. Vith, and thrust in 
columnar formation to and across the 
Meuse River. Lucht would be given only 
two infantry divisions, one of which, the 
i8th Volks Grenadier Division, was 
holding the section of the West Wall 
along the northern reaches of the Schnee 
Eifel. The second division, unnamed, 
would not be designated or available 
until shortly before the attack. The 
LXVI Corps commander apparently 
was not unduly concerned by the lack 
of weight allotted; after all, the main 
army effort turned on its two panzer 
corps. But like all veteran German 
field commanders on the Western 
Front, Lucht was vitally concerned with 
the problem of air support. The first 
question he put to Manteuffel phrased 
this concern. Manteuffel parried with 
the stock answer: OKW had promised 
adequate air support; but in any case it 
was hoped that bad flying weather during 
December would drastically curtail the 
enemy effectiveness in the air. 

About 1 December the commander of 
the i8th Volks Grenadier Division, 
Generalmajor Hoffmann-Schonborn, was 
let in on the closely guarded secret, join- 



ing Lucht and his chief of staff at the 
planning table. The Luftwaffe could 
furnish no terrain photos, but detailed 
maps and terrain appreciations for this 
area were on file. The final terrain esti- 
mate concluded that the sector north of 
the Schnee Eifel offered fewer natural 
obstacles than that to the south. Further- 
more, the Losheim Gap appeared to have 
the weakest defending force. The Our 
River was an obstacle, but known cross- 
ing sites existed at Andler, Schonberg, 
and Steinebriick. St. Vith was nearly 
equidistant from the planned attack 
positions north or south of the Schnee 
Eifel, twelve to fourteen straight-line 
miles. 

The final plan of maneuver, largely 
dictated by Manteuffel, made the i8th 
Volks Grenadier Division responsible for 
a concentric attack moving north and 
south of the Schnee Eifel. The division 
would place its strongest kampfgruppe 
in the north, however, and make the 
main corps effort there. Lucht reasoned 
that the i8th knew the ground and 
would make the quickest progress; but 
he also wished to retain close control 
over the drive when it reached St. Vith, 
and such control could best be exercised 
by a single command. Furthermore the 
second division would have no time to 
learn the ground and, set to make a 
single envelopment in the southern part 
of the corps sector, would face extensive 
field fortifications on broken, wooded 
terrain. The fact that Lucht did not ex- 
pect the thin American line to his front 
to offer strong resistance may be one of 
the reasons he risked splitting the i8th 
Volks Grenadier Division, rather than 
committing one division at each end of 
the Schnee Eifel. Since none of the 
German planners expected an American 



BREAKTHROUGH AT THE SCHNEE EIFEL 



143 



counterthrust across the Schnee Eifel 
range, a very small force from the i8th 
Volks Grenadier Replacement Battalion 
was reckoned a sufficient screen on the 
heights. The corps lacked a tank battal- 
ion and was assigned an assault gun 
brigade in its place. The corps artillery 
was deemed too weak to engage the 
Americans in a counterbattery duel at 
the outset of the attack, and in addition 
the Germans hoped to make early and 
deep penetrations by surprise; concerted 
artillery preparations prior to H-hour, 
then, were ruled out. Neither Fifth 
Panzer Army nor LXVI Corps seems to 
have fixed a definite timetable; the i8th 
Volks Grenadier Division is said not to 
have expected to reach St. Vith earlier 
than i8 December. 

Both the divisions which subsequently 
took part in the Schnee Eifel operation 
were newly organized and inexperi- 
enced. The i8th had been formed dur- 
ing September on the ruins of the i8th 
Air Force Field Division, earlier de- 
stroyed in the Mons pocket. Recon- 
structed from Luftwaffe and Navy units, 
plus a strong admixture of Volks- 
deutsche and workers drawn in by the 
new draft laws, the i8th lacked trained 
noncoms and officers. But the unit was 
more fortunate than many another in 
that its occupation of the northern sec- 
tor in the Schnee Eifel did not bring on 
many losses prior to the counteroffensive 
and permitted its troops to be rotated 
through training areas in the rear. 

The division commander seems to 
have sold General Lucht on the idea of 
making the main thrust toward St. Vith 
from north of the Schnee Eifel— although 
both were certain that the double en- 
velopment envisaged would cut off a very 
large American force. The right attack 



group was heavily weighted, consisting 
of two regiments, most of the division 
artillery, and the assault gun brigade. In 
reserve, for exploitation of any success 
on the right wing, was a mobile battal- 
lion, made up of the division tank de- 
stroyer battalion, a reconnaissance com- 
pany, and an engineer company. The 
main breakthrough was to be attempted 
in the vicinity of Roth. The left attack 
group, one regiment and a battalion of 
self-propelled artillery, was directed to 
make its penetration through Bleialf, 
where the Americans probably would 
be encountered in force. Nevertheless, 
this kampfgruppe had the mission of 
seizing the Schonberg bridge. The divi- 
sion replacement battalion, two hun- 
dred strong, would be left to man the 
division center along the Schnee Eifel. 

Early in December the 62d Volks 
Grenadier Division, Lucht's second di- 
vision, detrained at Priim, but did not 
go immediately into the forward corps 
sector. The 62d bore the number of an 
infantry division which had been de- 
stroyed on the Eastern Front, but it had 
been rebuilt from the ground up. Never 
before in action, the 62 d was commanded 
by a general who likewise lacked combat 
experience, Generalmajor Frederich 
Kittel. The division was at full strength 
for its class: like the i8th it num- 
bered three regiments of two-battalion 
strength. Equipment was new and 
complete. The mission now handed the 
newly arrived division was to effect a 
break-through on the left of the 18 th 
Volks Grenadier Division in the Gross- 
langenfeld-Heckhuscheid sector, advance 
northwest on a broad front (clearing 
the Pronsfeld-St. Vith road) , and 
seize the Our River crossings at Steine- 
briick. The 62d Volks Grenadier Divi- 



144 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



sion was to leave to its northern neigh- 
bor the task of capturing St. Vith, but 
was expected to block the western and 
southern exits. 

The LXVI Corps staff was acutely 
conscious that the American observation 
posts on the Schnee Eifel overlooked the 
German positions. Everything possible 
was done to avoid exciting American 
suspicion or arousing American interest. 
All patrolling was banned from lo De- 
cember on, but the arrival of the io6th 
Division (which the Germans immedi- 
ately spotted as new and inexperienced) 
led to a limited relaxation of this order. 
Patrols working at night about 12 or 13 
December did discover something of 
interest— but in the 14th Cavalry Group 
sector. Here it was found that the two 
thousand yards separating Roth and 
Weckerath (on the south flank of the 
cavalry position) was unoccupied, and 
that the two villages were weakly held. 
Plans were made at once to exploit this 
weak spot— an explanation, perhaps, of 
the decision to make the main penetra- 
tion by the northern attack group in the 
Roth area. 

From 5 to 12 December the German 
artillery moved forward to carefully 
camouflaged positions from which the 
attack could be supported. The artillery 
regiment of the i8th Folks Grenadier 
Division occupied old emplacements in 
the West Wall area behind the corps 
right flank. Corps artillery formed a 
groupment southwest of Priim to give 
general support to the southern attack 
group of the 18 th and the green 6 2d. 
On the north wing the assault gun bri- 
gade would have to move to its attack 
positions through the West Wall anti- 
tank line. Because demolition might 
alert the Americans, underpinning for 



inclined ramps was built over the dra- 
gon's teeth during the nights before the 
attack. All that remained was to fasten 
on the planking (and this job was later 
done, the assault guns climbing over 
with ease) . Meanwhile a special field 
artillery observation battalion was at 
work, spotting the American gun posi- 
tions and reporting minor changes in 
the opposing battery alignment. The 
LX VI Corps staff, it may be added, were 
very much concerned over the artillery 
weight known to be available to the 
American defenders in the zone of pro- 
jected advance. 

On the night of 14 December it 
seemed for a moment that all the care- 
ful precautions the LXVI Corps had 
taken to mask its intentions might go 
for nought. The 2d Panzer Division 
tanks, which had detrained at Stadtkyll, 
moved along the roads behind the corps' 
left flank en route to the south. Through 
the clear, cold air the noise of tracks 
and motors could be heard for miles. 
But much to General Lucht's relief no 
American reconnaissance planes ap- 
peared the following day. Apparently 
the secret preparations for attack still 
were secret.^ 

The i8th Volks Grenadier Division 
sector narrowed somewhat on 15 De- 
cember when the northern neighbor, 
/ SS Panzer Corps, extended its left 
wing to include Neuhof and Ormont; 
the division sector at the commencement 
of the attack now would be about ten 
miles wide. The night of 15 December 
was frosty and clear, offering good visi- 
bility for the last moves to the line of 
departure. On the right the forty guns 
of the assault gun brigade took station 

2 It will be recalled that the io6th had noticed 
unusual vehicular noise. See above, p. 59. 



BREAKTHROUGH AT THE SCHNEE EIFEL 



145 



near the dragon's teeth. On the left the 
two assault regiments of the 6 2d Volks 
Grenadier Division moved for the first 
time into the positions held earlier by 
the 26th Volks Grenadier Division. Also 
for the first time, the assault company 
commanders heard officially of the great 
counteroffensive and were given instruc- 
tions as to their own particular roles. 

With assembly completed, the juxta- 
position of German and American for- 
mations on the morning of 16 December 
was as follows. The boundary between 
the Fifth and Sixth Panzer Armies bi- 
sected the 14th Cavalry Group area by 
an extension south of Krewinkel and 
Manderfeld. North of the line elements 
of the jd Parachute Division, reinforced 
by tanks, faced two platoons of Troop 
C, 18th Cavalry Squadron, two recon- 
naissance platoons and one gun company 
of the 820th Tank Destroyer Battalion, 
plus the squadron and group head- 
quarters at Manderfeld. South of the 
boundary the 294th and 29 ^th Regi- 
ments of the i8th Volks Grenadier Divi- 
sion, forty assault guns, and a reinforced 
tank destroyer battalion faced Troop A 
and one platoon of Troop C, 18 th Cav- 
alry Squadron. On no other part of the 
American front would the enemy so out- 
number the defenders at the start of the 
Ardennes counteroffensive. 

On the Schnee Eifel the 422d Infan- 
try, composing the left wing of the 106th 
Division, had only minute screening 
elements opposite. The 423d Infantry, 
with one flank on the Schnee Eifel range 
and the other in the Bleialf depression, 
was in the path of the 29^^ Regiment 
(i8th Volks Grenadier Division). The 
424th Infantry, in positions running to 
the southwest, stood opposite the 62d 
Volks Grenadier Division. In the event 



that the neighboring corps south of the 
LXVI made progress, one of its regi- 
ments, the 60th Regiment (ii6th Pan- 
zer Division) , would be brought against 
the right flank of the 424th Infantry. 

The compilation of opposing forces, 
above, will show that the odds against 
the defender in the Schnee Eifel area 
were not inordinate— except in the cav- 
alry sector. The Germans would have to 
make the utmost use of surprise, con- 
centration of effort, and ground favor- 
able to attack, if they were to achieve 
any large measure of success. Fully aware 
that the American line had numerous 
weak spots and that no substantial re- 
serves were near. General Lucht and his 
division commanders saw three factors 
that might limit success: the weakness 
of the i8th Volks Grenadier Division 
center, enemy superiority in the artil- 
lery arm, and strong intervention by 
unfriendly air. All evidence of the play 
of these factors, particularly the last two, 
would be carefully observed as D-day 
came. 

Although the LXVI advance on 16 
December was planned and effected as 
the co-ordinated effort of two divisions, 
the story must begin with the iSth Volks 
Grenadier Division attack. This in turn 
will follow the German scheme of ma- 
neuver, the right wing first, then the 
left. The fight in the zone of the 424th 
Infantry quickly becomes an independ- 
ent action and will be so considered.^ 

The Attack in the Losheim Gap 

The shock companies of the iSth be- 
gan to move toward the American cav- 
alry positions about 0400 on 16 



See also ch. XVII. 



146 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



December. An hour later the main 
strength of the two attacking regiments 
followed, the 2^^th advancing toward 
Weckerath and the Our valley, the zp^th 
heading for Roth and Kobscheid. Sup- 
porting artillery, mortars, and Werfers 
opened fire over the heads of the Ger- 
man infantry shortly after 0830. (Actu- 
ally the first concentrations to arouse the 
Americans were fired as part of the 
Sixth Panzer Army artillery preparation 
prior to H-hour and landed in the north- 
ern part of the 14th Cavalry zone) . Roth 
and Kobscheid, closest to the enemy 
jump-off positions, received only one 
battery salvo; apparently the German 
infantry were already around the vil- 
lages. When day broke, cloudy and 
drizzling, the assault force moving be- 
tween Weckerath and Roth was well on 
its way to the commanding crossroads 
village of Auw. Visibility was so poor, 
the American village positions so dis- 
persed, that the cavalrymen for some 
time did not detect nor engage the infan- 
try moving past. (The Germans, having 
received no fire, first suspected that the 
main American line had been moved 
back to the Our River.) Furthermore, 
predawn attacks on Roth and Kobscheid 
had occupied the attention of the 
troopers. At Roth a company of grena- 
diers was checked by shellfire. The 
attackers at Kobscheid actually got in- 
side the cavalry defense, but nearly forty 
were captured. 

Before dawn none of the village gar- 
risons in the southern sector had been 
seriously menaced. The effects of the 
enemy penetrations, however, became 
apparent soon after daylight. At 0830 
a message from Roth reported that the 
Germans were inside the village, that 
a tank seventy-five yards from the com- 



mand post was "belting us with direct 
fire." Light tanks, dispatched from Man- 
derfeld, hurried to give aid but were 
stopped cold by fire from Auw, some 
3,500 yards to the west, which was occu- 
pied by the Germans. Nothing more was 
heard from Roth. The remainder of 
Troop A, in Kobscheid, also was cut off ; 
by 0900 the attackers had established a 
hold inside the village. Weckerath, 
which lay to one side of the German 
advance on Auw, was hit by elements 
of the 2p4th. Here the 3d Platoon of 
Troop C was located east of the village 
in a small patch of woods on the road to 
Krewinkel, well dug in and protected 
by barbed wire on all sides. The first 
German assault was checked by mortars 
and machine guns, reinforced by accu- 
rate artillery fire. Two enemy com- 
panies, however, swept around the wood 
and converged on the village, where 
some twenty men of Troop C headquar- 
ters held them at bay with bullet fire. 
A platoon of American light tanks ar- 
rived from Manderfeld shortly after 
0930, appearing just in time to engage 
groups of enemy infantry infiltrating the 
eastern edge of the village. At 1 1 00 
observers at Weckerath saw an enemy 
column moving from Roth in the direc- 
tion of Auw. They counted fifteen 
"tanks"— probably a battalion of assault 
guns— and at least one battalion of foot 
troops, marching intermixed with the 
assault guns. Artillery fire was directed 
onto the column, with but little effect. 
The Germans pressed on to the west. 

In the northern sector of the 14th 
Cavalry Group fortune had treated the 
defenders with mixed favor during the 
morning. The German force committed 
here consisted of a reinforced regiment 
of the Parachute Division (it will be 



BREAKTHROUGH AT THE SCHNEE EIFEL 



147 



recalled that the boundary between the 
Fifth and Sixth Panzer Armies ran just 
south of Krewinkel and Manderfeld) 
attacking initially without the support of 
heavy weapons. The Parachute Divi- 
sion axis cut straight through the north- 
ern cavalry sector, then angled northwest 
in the direction of Faymonville, the divi- 
sion advancing as the left flank of the / 
SS Panzer Corps. At Krewinkel, the most 
advanced American post in the area, 
the 2d Platoon of Troop C and a 
reconnaissance platoon of Company A, 
820th Tank Destroyer Battalion, occu- 
pied a position from which excellent 
observation and fields of fire covered all 
approaches to the village from the east. 
An hour before dawn a German shock 
company boldly approached the village 
in column of fours. The troopers held 
their fire until the enemy infantry were 
within twenty yards of the outer strands 
of wire— then cut loose. The column dis- 
integrated, but the assault was quickly 
resumed in more open order and shortly 
the Germans were in the village streets. 
At one point half the village was in Ger- 
man hands, but eventually the defenders 
got the upper hand and the enemy with- 
drew. 

One of the last to leave shouted in 
English, "Take a ten minute break. 
We'll be back." An exasperated trooper 
hastened to assure him profanely, 

" , we'll still be here." With the full 

morning light the enemy returned, as 
promised, after his artillery had tried 
unsuccessfully to jar the Americans loose. 
Head-on assault from the east by fresh 
troops made no progress. By noon, but 
two of the defenders had been wounded. 
The troopers estimated that the German 
dead now totaled 375— doubtless an exag- 
gerated figure but still an indication of 



the costliness of the German tactics. At 
the neighboring village of Afst, the 1st 
Platoon of Troop C was similarly 
attacked. The platoon beat off two 
enemy companies, with heavy loss to the 
Germans. 

The American left wing was composed 
of Company A and two reconnaissance 
platoons of the 820th Tank Destroyer 
Battalion, occupying the villages of Ber- 
terath, Merlscheid, and Lanzerath. The 
3-inch towed guns, sited to cover the 
roads and eastern approaches, had no 
protection whatever. The gun sections 
were unable to put up more than short 
resistance to the German infantry, nor 
could most of the pieces be hooked up 
and towed out with the enemy already 
in the position. Here as elsewhere dur- 
ing the Ardennes fighting the towed tank 
destroyer lacked the maneuverability to 
deal with infiltration or to displace when 
in danger. Three tank destroyers were 
pulled back toward Manderfeld and bet- 
ter firing positions; the rest, with one 
exception, were destroyed on orders. 
Most of the company reached the cavalry 
group headquarters at Manderfeld and 
continued the fight as infantry. 

Colonel Devine and the staffs of the 
14th Cavalry Group and 18 th Cavalry 
Squadron had been alerted by the first 
shells of the opening predawn concen- 
tration dropping on Manderfeld. Tele- 
phone wires went out during the bar- 
rage, and radio communication was 
made difficult by the cacaphony of pho- 
nograph records introduced by the Ger- 
mans along the American wave lengths. 
About 0600 the 14th Cavalry Group ex- 
ecutive officer talked by phone to the 
io6th Division command post and asked 
for wire teams to restore the lines. 
Whether he asked for permission to 



148 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



move up the 32d Cavalry Squadron 
is uncertain. In any event the orders 
from the division were to alert the re- 
serve squadron, but not to move it. 
At 0640 another call from Manderfeld 
reached the command post at St. Vith, 
this time with a request to move the 
32d forward to a position halfway 
between the division and group com- 
mand posts. Twenty-five minutes 
later the G-3 journal of the 106th Divi- 
sion records a telephone order to the 
cavalry: "Move 32 Cavalry Squadron as 
soon as you like." This squadron had 
been resting and refitting, indeed some 
of its vehicles were partially disassem- 
bled when the alert order arrived. About 
0930 the squadron was on the road, 
minus Company F, which took another 
hour and a half to ready its light tanks 
for movement. 

Colonel Devine, realizing that the for- 
ward platoons of the 18th Cavalry 
Squadron were in danger of destruction 
and could make no more futile efforts, 
cut off and isolated as they were, planned 
to make a stand along the Manderfeld 
ridge. This ridge line was some 3,000 
yards in the rear of the original cavalry 
line and about twice that distance from 
the West Wall positions out of which the 
German attack had erupted. Devine in- 
tended to defend along the ridge with 
the 3 2d Squadron and thus cover the 
withdrawal of his forward troops. Short- 
ly after 1100 the fresh squadron reached 
Manderfeld, Troop E moving its as- 
sault guns into previously reconnoitered 
positions at Manderfeld, Troop C de- 
ploying northwest of the town to cover 
the road from Lanzerath, and two dis- 
mounted platoons of Troop A digging 
in southwest of Manderfeld. While this 
area defense was forming. Troop B took 



stations near Andler; at this village, just 
west of the German spearhead in Auw, 
the Our bridge remained an intact and 
important prize. The remainder of 
Troop A was dispatched to Holzheim, 
there to cover the group's left and rear. 

Shortly before the arrival of the 32d 
Cavalry Squadron, Devine had asked 
General Jones to make a counterattack 
north from the 106th Division area. He 
was told that no infantry support could 
be given "at this time." When Devine 
answered that he would have to with- 
draw in the south to a line from Mander- 
feld through Verschneid, Jones made no 
comment. Thus far, it must be said, there 
was little or no inclination at the 106th 
Division headquarters to regard the sit- 
uation in the cavalry sector as unduly 
serious. Devine's final comment during 
this telephone conversation— that he in- 
tended to counterattack with the 3 2d 
Cavalry Squadron on its arrival and 
attempt to restore the Krewinkel-Roth- 
Kobscheid line— may have helped con- 
firm the somewhat optimistic view held 
at the division headquarters. 

At noon Colonel Devine finally issued 
withdrawal orders to the 18th Cavalry 
Squadron. Troop C alone was able to 
comply. The 3d Platoon, which had held 
its own in the fight east of Weckerath, 
mounted two armored cars and a few 
jeeps, then made its way with guns 
blazing into the village. Here the com- 
mand post group and light tanks joined, 
the column moving west along roads 
lined with German riflemen, but this 
was no headlong dash because cold 
motors and congealed transmission 
grease slowed the column to fifteen 
miles per hour. Meanwhile the village it 
had just left was blasted by a terrific 
shelling— apparently the Germans had 



BREAKTHROUGH AT THE SCHNEE EIFEL 



149 



been preparing for a final assault. The 
garrisons at Krewinkel and Afst moved 
back at 1240 without incident. As Kre- 
winkel was lost to view the troopers 
could see German infantry swarming in 
from the east.* When Troop C and the 
light tanks reached Manderfeld, the 
assault gun troop, which had been de- 
ployed along the ridge north and south 
of the town, poured direct fire on the 
enemy now streaming southwest through 
the draws at the source of the Our River. 
The morning fog had lifted and the 
gunners were able to inflict considerable 
damage with their 75-mm. howitzers. 

The story of the garrisons in Roth and 
Kobscheid is difficult to reconstruct, al- 
though the troopers held on for some 
hours after being surrounded. In the 
early part of the fight, forward obser- 
vers in Kobscheid were in contact with 
the 275th Armored Field Artillery Bat- 
talion; this artillery support unquestion- 
ably was of signal aid to the troopers, 
as were the quad mounts of the 413th 
Antiaircraft Battalion which were sent 
to help the Roth defenders. About 1100 
the Roth command post radioed Kob- 
scheid that the troops of the 106th Divi- 
sion farther south were moving back, 
that the Roth garrison would try to with- 
draw, and that the Kobscheid group 
should do likewise. Apparently the 
German grip on Roth was too firm; 
sometime during the afternoon the 
troopers there surrendered. Kobscheid 
held out until about 1630. Then, as dusk 
settled, sixty-one men led by 1st Lt. 
Lorenz Herdrick started through the 



* These troops were armored infantry from the 
ist 55 Panzer Division whose commander finally 
had thrown them in to get the attack rolling. 



snow cross-country in a westerly direc- 
tion. They returned to the American 
lines at St. Vith on 19 December.^ 

Early in the afternoon it was apparent 
to the force at Manderfeld that the Ger- 
mans were pushing west around both 
flanks. A patrol sent in the direction of 
Auw reported that the entrance to the 
Our valley was wide open, contact with 
the 99th Division in the north had been 
lost, and the 106th Division reported 
that it lacked the troops to counterattack 
toward the cavalry. Colonel Devine 
therefore organized a task force about 
1400 to retake the ground around Lan- 
zerath and thus cover his northern flank. 
The task force, commanded by Maj. 
J. L. Mayes, consisted of Troop C 
and the assault gun troop of the 18th 
Cavalry Squadron. Moving north the 
task force reached a road junction 1,600 
yards north of Manderfeld, where it was 
beset from three sides by infantry and 
self-propelled guns. The cavalry self- 
propelled howitzers were able to maneu- 
ver and do considerable execution in this 
close-range fire fight, but the counter- 
attack was checked. By this time the 
situation on the opposite flank was 
precarious; the Germans already had 
passed through Wischeid, southwest of 
Manderfeld, and were moving toward 
the Our bridge at Andler. 

Shortly after four o'clock the 14th 
Cavalry Group executive officer tele- 
phoned the 106th Division command 
post and asked permission to withdraw 
to the line Andler-Holzheim, a position 



"Three members of the i8th Cavalry Recon- 
naissance Squadron were, awarded the DSC for 
gallantry in the battle at the villages: 1st Lt. 
A. L. Mills, S. Sgt. Woodrow W. Reeves, and Cpl. 
C. E. Statler. 



150 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



represented by a series of ridges covered 
on the east by a tributary of the Our. 
The division headquarters authorized 
the withdrawal. Devine ordered Task 
Force Mayes to fight a delaying action 
southwest along the road from Losheim, 
while the Manderfeld defenders with- 
drew to the west. This movement was 
carried through successfully, the 32d 
Cava'ry howitzers on the Manderfeld 
ridge ably supporting the task force. The 
last troops left Manderfeld about 1700, 
setting the town afire in an attempt to 
destroy records of value to the enemy. 

Troops E and C of the 18th reached 
Holzheim at twilight, joining Troop A 
of the 32d which already was in position 
as the anchor of the 14th Cavalry north 
flank. Troop B of the 32d had remained 
at Andler since its morning arrival; it 
now screened the southern flank with 
reconnaissance teams pushing out on the 
roads to south, east, and north. The light 
tank company of the 32d Squadron was 
disposed to the southwest of the cavalry 
line at Heuem, covering the road from 
Schonberg to St. Vith and worrying 
about the absence of communications. 
The remainder of the 3 2d Squadron was 
at Herresbach and that of the 18th 
Squadron near Wereth, both villages be- 
hind the Holzheim-Andler line. By early 
evening the 14th Cavalry Group was in 
its defensive positions, except for such 
regrouping as would be needed to sort 
out elements of the two squadrons. Its 
supporting artillery battalion (the 
275th) was in the process of moving to 
new positions near St. Vith. As yet there 
were no signs of an enemy pursuit. The 
forward artillery observers were active 
"along the deserted front" until 1900 but 
found nothing to report. Contact with 
the Germans had been lost. 



The German attack in the Losheim 
Gap during 16 December had gone ac- 
cording to schedule. The northern arm 
of the i8th Folks Grenadier Division 
envelopment had penetrated as far as 
Auw and overrun most of the American 
artillery positions. As daylight ended the 
2p4th Regiment assembled around Auw 
and the 2^5^/1 regrouped in the Roth- 
Kobscheid area, both awaiting the 
arrival of their heavy weapons. Now 
General Lucht told the division com- 
mander to call forward his armored mo- 
bile battalion and send it to join the 
and elements of the assault gun 
brigade the next morning in a drive 
on Andler. In the north the 3d Para- 
chute Division continued its advance 
during the night, marching through 
the rough, heavily forested area north- 
west of Manderfeld and Lanzerath. 
Along the roads to the east the armored 
formations of the ist SS Panzer Divi- 
sion toiled forward in the dark, ready 
to push through the opening between 
the American 99th Division and the 
14th Cavalry Group. As things stood, 
therefore, the 14th Cavalry was deploy- 
ed in the gap which was opening as 
the i8th Folks Grenadier Division con- 
tinued westward and the 3d Parachute 
Division angled toward the northwest. 
The cavalry flanks, however, rested on 
roads which would be essential to the 
enemy— roads along which the German 
armor was moving for commitment on 
the second day of the offensive. In the 
meantime the 14th Cavalry Group com- 
mander had gone to St. Vith to explain 
to the io6th Division staff his situation 
and the arrangements he had made. Gen- 
eral Jones, busy with plans for a counter- 
attack by armored reinforcements which 
the corps commander had promised for 



BREAKTHROUGH AT THE SCHNEE EIFEL 



151 



the next morning, had no comment to 
offer and merely asked Colonel Devine 
to wait at the command post. 

The Attack Hits the 
106th Division 

The 14th Cavalry Group withdrawal 
to the Holzheim-Andler line in the late 
afternoon of 16 December had no prac- 
tical adverse effect on its southern neigh- 
bor, the 422d Infantry. By this time the 
enemy thrust had driven so deep and 
with such force between the cavalry and 
the 423d that the northern flank of the 
106th Infantry Division was exposed re- 
gardless of movements undertaken by 
the cavalry. Ominous events had tran- 
spired in the zone of the io6th. 

Seven of the nine rifle battalions under 
General Jones' command were in the line 
on the morning of 16 December. The 2d 
Battalion, 423d Infantry, was in division 
reserve near Born, 5,000 yards north of 
St. Vith. The 1st Battalion, 424th Infan- 
try, was located at Steinebriick on the 
road to Winterspelt and also was in 
division reserve. The 42 2d Infantry had 
its three battalions in the West Wall 
positions on the Schnee Eifel, defending 
a front of eight to nine thousand yards. 
Attached was Company A, 81st Engineer 
Combat Battalion; direct support was 
given by the 589th Field Artillery Battal- 
ion whose batteries were emplaced 
southwest of Auw. Located west of Auw 
were the 155-mm. howitzers of the 592d 
Field Artillery Battalion. The regimen- 
tal command post was in the crossroads 
village of Schlausenbach, with the can- 
non company to the west on Hill 612. 
All of these locations lay in the northern 
section of the regimental area not far 
from the 14th Cavalry Group boundary. 



A company of engineers occupied Auw, 
the most important road center in the 
42 2d sector. The forward positions of 
the 42 2d in the West Wall were based on 
a series of heavily wooded ridges running 
north and south. However a number of 
ravines, densely screened by trees, led 
directly back into the regimental area; 
one such ran straight down to Schlausen- 
bach. 

The 423d Infantry— in the division 
center— was deployed on a curving line 
a little more than 8,000 yards long, with 
one battalion in the West Wall, the 
other bending around the southern nose 
of the Schnee Eifel and back to the west. 
A gap existed between the rifle battalion 
positions and the village of Bleialf. The 
regimental right wing was fleshed out by 
a provisional battalion (the antitank 
company, one platoon of the cannon 
company, a rifle platoon, and Troop B, 
18th Cavalry Squadron) . This scratch 
force, acting as riflemen, was reinforced 
by Company C, 820th Tank Destroyer 
Battalion. The 590th Field Artillery Bat- 
talion supported the regiment from posi- 
tions northwest of Oberlascheid, and the 
regimental cannon company was close to 
that village. 

The 424th Infantry held a six-mile 
line angled slightly from the Ihren 
Creek southwestward to the vicinity of 
Grosskampenberg. The gap between it 
and the 423d, a distance of 4,000 yards, 
was screened thinly by the io6th Recon- 
naissance Troop and the cannon com- 
pany. The 591st Field Artillery 
Battalion was situated behind the regi- 
mental center with two battalions for- 
ward and one in the rear to cover any 
displacement. 

During the evening of 15 December 
enemy aircraft droned through the air 



152 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



over the io6th Division lines attempting 
to divert attention from the noise created 
by the German ground columns moving 
forward to the line of departure. Their 
efforts were wasted. The vehicular activ- 
ity behind the German front was heard 
and duly recorded, but it caused no 
alarm. Enemy patrols also were unusu- 
ally active during the night— except at 
the Schnee Eifel positions of the 42 2d 
Infantry which did not figure in the 
German attack plans. Again there was no 
particular reaction among the Ameri- 
cans. No one anticipated a German at- 
tack, although with the advantage of 
hindsight all these warning signs and 
others would be resurrected and given 
an importance never accorded them on 
the night of 15 December. 

At 0530, 16 December, the guns, 
WerferS; and mortars of the LX VI Corps 
opened fire, marking the commence- 
ment of the advance against the io6th 
Division. The artillery available to the 
LXVI was limited, by comparison with 
most other parts of the front, but was 
well served by its forward observers and 
did much damage to telephone wire, 
ammunition dumps, and other supply 
points. The first word from a specific 
target reached the division headquar- 
ters at St. Vith about 0550, a report 
that the 423d Antitank Company had 
been shelled since 0530. The 423d In- 
fantry was in fact bearing the brunt of 
the enemy barrage and most of its tele- 
phone lines to the forward units went 
out in the first few minutes. Within the 
hour messages from the 28th Division 
and the 99th Division told of heavy shell- 
ing to the south and the north of the 
106th. But the German assault troops 
who had been moving forward in the 
darkness onto the 106th positions since 



0500 were not immediately detected. 
German pressure would first be felt in 
these areas within the regimental sec- 
tors: the Heckhuscheid and Winterspelt 
areas (424th Infantry) ; the Bleialf area 
(423d Infantry) ; and on the Auw- 
Schonberg road (42 2d Infantry). In the 
last case, the northern assault wing of 
the i8th Folks Grenadier Division con- 
centric attack would strike the Ameri- 
can cavalry before turning on the north 
flank of the 106th Division. 

At dusk on 15 December the 62d Folks 
Grenadier Division, forming the left of 
the LXFI Corps, had come into the lines 
opposite the left and center of the 424th 
Infantry. This new division would have 
no opportunity to reconnoiter the bro- 
ken and heavily wooded ground over 
which it was to advance the next morn- 
ing—a fact which had direct bearing on 
the subsequent story of the 424th In- 
fantry—but its scheme of maneuver 
had been given detailed study. The 
attack would open with two regiments 
abreast attempting a breakthrough on 
a wide front. The main effort would 
be made in the vicinity of Winterspelt, 
breaching the American switch line 
southeast of that village and thus gaining 
entrance to the main macadam road 
to St. Vith. Once in position astride 
the road, the mobile reserve of the 
62d would be committed for the pene- 
tration, while the two regiments ex- 
tended their hold on either side of 
the road. On the left, therefore, the 
i8^d Regiment had as its objective the 
northern side of the plateau on which 
lay the village of Heckhuscheid. Pos- 
session of this high ground was deemed 
essential to the German plan. On the 
right the ipoth Regiment aimed at the 
wooded heights at Eigelscheid around 



BREAKTHROUGH AT THE SCHNEE EIFEL 



153 



which twisted the road to Winterspelt, 
two thousand yards westward. 

The 3d Battalion of the 424th Infan- 
try received the first German blow in 
its positions north of Heckhuscheid. Af- 
ter a 20-minute concentration of artil- 
lery and mortar fire a shock company 
of the 18 drove in on Companies K and 
L about 0645. Although the defenders 
got word back to their own artillery, 
when daylight came the enemy had pen- 
etrated well into the position. The 3d 
Battalion, however, was on ground 
which favored the defender and not un- 
duly extended. The most serious threat 
developed to the north on the weak flank 
screening the switch position. Here the 
regimental cannon company (Capt. 
Joseph Freesland) , armed only with rifles 
and machine guns, was deployed at 
the Weissenhof crossroads blocking the 
main road to Winterspelt. Guided by 
flashlights and flares the Germans made 
their attack in column, advancing erect, 
shouting and screaming. The cannon- 
eers, nothing daunted, did well in their 
infantry role, holding for several hours 
against assault from front and flank. 
Colonel Reid, the regimental command- 
er, ordered his 1st Battalion, in reserve 
at Steinebriick, to the support of the 
threatened north flank. Company C 
arrived to reinforce the cannon com- 
pany and the rest of the reserve bat- 
talion hurriedly established defensive 
positions to the rear at Winterspelt. 

In the 3d Battalion zone Company I 
came in to help restore the line. A se- 
ries of counterattacks, well supported by 
fire from the 591st Field Artillery Bat- 
talion, erased the dents in the Ameri- 
can position, and a sortie led by the 
battalion S— 3, Capt. Lee Berwick, 
entered Heckhuscheid and took 107 



prisoners. A four-man patrol from 
Company K rounded up another forty 
prisoners in the woods nearby. By noon 
the 424th had driven the enemy back 
along the whole of its front. 

Coincidentally and without realizing 
what had been accomplished, the south- 
ern elements of the 424th put a crimp 
in the plans of the Germans attacking 
to outflank the neighboring 112th In- 
fantry. Men of the 2d Battalion, sup- 
ported by the 3d Platoon of Company 
B, 820th Tank Destroyer Battalion, 
caught the assault company leading the 
60th Panzer Grenadier Regiment attack 
in a wood west of Grosskampenberg. 
German reports say that the company 
was "nearly destroyed." This sharp set- 
back so discouraged the ii6th Panzer 
Division commander that before the day 
ended he switched the 60th Panzer Gren- 
adier Regiment to the south. Although 
this attempt to drive a wedge between 
the 112th and 424th was not renewed, 
the latter was able to give its neighbors 
a helping hand later in the day. During 
the afternoon a gunner from the tank 
destroyer platoon, Pfc. Paul C. Rosen- 
thal, sighted five German tanks and a 
truck moving north of Liitzkampen. Fir- 
ing his 3-inch gun at 2,000 yards range 
he destroyed all, tanks and truck; he 
had used only eighteen rounds of high- 
explosive and armor-piercing-capped 
ammunition. 

About noon a report reached the 62 d 
Folks Grenadier Division command post 
that troops of the igoth Regiment (the 
Germans who had broken through north 
of the cannon company positions) 
were on high ground north of Eigel- 
scheid overlooking the road to Winter- 
spelt. General Kittel ordered his mobile 
battalion up from the i6^th Regiment 



154 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



reserve at Pronsfeld and into the attack 
along the Winterspelt road. This battal- 
ion, "mobile" in the sense that it was 
mounted on bicycles and reinforced by 
a company o£ self-propelled assault guns, 
was forced to stick to the macadam road. 
As a result it came up against the Amer- 
ican cannon company at the Weissenhof 
crossroads. Outnumbered and in dan- 
ger of encirclement the cannoneers 
and their rifle support from Company 
C made a deliberate and fighting with- 
drawal toward Winterspelt, platoon, 
by platoon. When the 2d Platoon was 
ordered back, its commander (Lt. Craw- 
ford Wheeler) stayed behind with a ba- 
zooka to meet the leading assault gun 
and was killed by point-blank fire. 

By dark the German mobile battal- 
ion and infantry from the ipoth Regi- 
ment were closing in on Winterspelt, 
where the 1st Battalion and remnants 
of the cannon company stood ready to 
meet them. The fight raged through 
the evening and by midnight at least a 
company of Germans was inside the 
village, with more coming in by the 
hour. In the 3d Battalion sector the en- 
emy had got nowhere with his frontal 
attacks around Heckhuscheid, the vil- 
lage remaining under American control 
at the close of the day. Casualties in the 
62d Volks Grenadier Division had been 
substantial, particularly, as might be ex- 
pected in the case of a green division 
in its first attack, among the officers. 
Losses in the 424th had not been high. 
But the position of the regiment on the 
night of the 16th was potentially a se- 
rious one— despite the rough body check 
given the enemy. The battalion and 
regimental reserves all had been com- 
mitted, the 591st Field Artillery Bat- 
talion had fired nearly all its ammuni- 



tion (over 2,600 rounds) , and the en- 
emy had made a dent toward Winter- 
spelt. Contact with the 112 th Infantry, 
on the south flank, had been lost. But 
fortunately the enemy had given over 
the idea of a penetration here. 

The intense fire laid on the 423d In- 
fantry on the morning of 16 December 
had disrupted telephone lines, but the 
radio net seems to have functioned well. 
By 0600 the regimental commander had 
word that his antitank company was 
under small arms fire at Bleialf, the key 
to the southern route around the Schnee 
Eifel and the Alf Creek depression. A- 
long this depression extended the 423d's 
weak wing, echeloned to the right and 
rear of the two rifle battalions, one on 
the Schnee Eifel and one curving along 
the southern nose of the range. The 
heterogeneous units screening along 
the wing had been grouped as a pro- 
visional battalion, but they formed no 
cohesive front and were charged with 
defending the least defensible ground 
on the regimental front. When shock 
troops of the 2p^d Regiment (i8th Volks 
Grenadier Division) struck the antitank 
company in Bleialf, one group filtered 
into the village and another, marching 
along the railroad, cut between Bleialf 
and Troop B (18th Cavalry Squadron) , 
blocking out the latter and destroying 
the right platoon of the antitank com- 
pany. 

Although radio reception was poor in 
this area the commander of the 423d 
Infantry and the regimental executive 
(Lt. Col. Frederick W. Nagle) were 
able to alert and move reserves 
promptly, but Colonel Cavender's re- 
quest for the release of his 2d Battalion, 
then in division reserve, was refused. 
About 0930 the service company and 



BREAKTHROUGH AT THE SCHNEE EIFEL 



155 



cannon company were at Bleialf, where 
they found most of the village held by 
the Germans. Later Company B, 8ist En- 
gineer Combat Battalion, and the head- 
quarters company were thrown into the 
fight. By 1500 these units had ejected 
the enemy from Bleialf after a series of 
hand-to-hand fights in the streets and 
houses. The cavalry troop on the ex- 
treme regimental right remained cut 
off from the friendly troops to the north. 
Finally getting permission by radio to 
withdraw, the troopers pulled back in 
the early afternoon to Winterscheid, 
2,500 yards southwest of Bleialf. While 
the enemy was attacking around Bleialf, 
a few small patrols tried to get into the 
positions of the 1st and 3d Battalions 
to the north— but no real attack was 
attempted during the 16th. 

The 2p^d had failed to carry out its 
part as the southern jaw of the i8th 
Volks Grenadier Division pincers, for 
without Bleialf the road to Steinebriick 
was barred. The Americans had recov- 
ered their balance quickly after the in- 
itial shock at Bleialf. The battalions 
on the Schnee Eifel had brought the 
German flank under accurate and pun- 
ishing fire at the first light of day, in- 
terdicting all reinforcement by the heavy 
weapons needed to reduce the village. 
On the whole the situation in the 4a3d 
sector seemed satisfactory, although two 
items remained for a final accounting. 
The southern flank of the regiment now 
was in the air, and its 2d Battalion, as 
division reserve, had been sent forward 
to aid the endangered 42 2d Infantry on 
the north. 

High on the center of the Schnee 
Eifel the 42 2d Infantry missed the 
first rude shock of a predawn attack. 
Although it was no part of the German 



plan to engage the 42 2d by frontal as- 
sault, the enemy penetration between 
Roth and Weckerath, during the dark 
hours, quickly brought the assault troops 
of the 2^4th Regiment down the road 
to Auw and onto the American regi- 
ment's flank and rear. Company A of 
the 81st Engineer Combat Battalion was 
billeted at Auw, and despite the enemy 
shelling in the early morning the engi- 
neers had turned out as usual to work 
on the roads. As the enemy approached 
Auw the bulk of the company hurried 
back to the village, set up their machine 
guns, and engaged the German column. 
This column (at least a battalion of the 
2p4th) was reinforced by self-propelled 
guns, which shelled the engineers out of 
their positions. When the 1st Platoon, 
the last to leave, finally essayed a dash 
from the village to the protection of a 
nearby wood lot, Cpl. Edward S. Withee 
remained behind to cover his comrades, 
with only his submachine gun as a 
weapon against the enemy armor.^ By 
this time the American batteries south- 
west of the village were blasting the 
Germans there, for a time halting fur- 
ther advance. At daylight small groups 
began pressure against the forward bat- 
talions of the 42 2d, but this seems to 
have been no more than an attempt to 
fix American attention to the front. 
Company L, however, had to be rushed 
to the defense of the regimental com- 
mand post at Schlausenbach. 

About noon the enemy in Auw be- 
came active, moving south against the 
artillery groupment composed of the 
589th Field Artillery Battalion (astride 
the Auw-Bleialf road) and the 592d, a 



"Withee was captured after his lone fight. He 
was given the DSC. 



156 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



155-mm. howitzer battalion, close by. 
The German 2p^</i was acting under 
orders to clear the way into the Our val- 
ley, but to do so it had to neutralize or 
destroy the American artillery, whose 
positions had been plotted earlier by the 
corps observation battalion. Stealing for- 
ward by squads and platoons, the gren- 
adiers brought the battery positions 
under crossfire from their machine pistols 
while mortar crews and gunners worked 
to knock out the American field pieces. 

Colonel Descheneaux, intent on eas- 
ing the increasing pressure, dispatched 
a task force about 1300 to recapture 
Auw and cut o£E the enemy to the south. 
This counterattack, employing Company 
L, the cannon company, and part of 
the antitank company, was based on a 
plan taken over from the 2d Infantry 
Division. The task force started its ad- 
vance in the midst of a sudden snow- 
storm, made contact with the Germans 
near Auw, then suddenly received or- 
ders to return to the regimental com- 
mand post at Schlausenbach, which was 
now threatened by infantry advancing 
along the draw from the east. Even while 
the task force was approaching Auw 
the enemy had stepped up the drive to 
overrun the artillery, sending assault 
guns in to do the job. But the Ameri- 
can cannoneers stayed with their how- 
itzers, firing with the shortest fuze 
possible, while others of the artillery 
worked their way to within bazooka 
range of enemy assault guns. The attack 
was stopped, after three assault guns 
had been knocked out. The Germans 
returned to the softening-up process and 
waited for night to fall; artillery and 
mortar fire accounted for 36 men in Bat- 
tery A of the 592d in the late afternoon. 

When day closed, the attempt to de- 



stroy the artillery was resumed, flares 
and searchlights marking the German 
movements. Earlier, General Jones had 
taken steps to block the gap between 
the 14th Cavalry Group and the 422d, 
ordering his reserve, the 2d Battalion, 
423d Infantry (Lt. Col. Joseph F. Puett), 
to move through St. Vith to Schonberg. 
By 1730 Puett's battalion had detrucked 
and set up defenses to cover the road 
net at the latter point. Three hours 
later General Jones telephoned Colonel 
Puett, ordering an immediate attack to 
cover the open left flank of the 422d 
and permit the two hard-pressed artil- 
lery battalions to displace southward. 
Apparently General Jones intended that 
the battalion should turn north to And- 
ler and push aside the enemy along 
the Auw-Andler-Schonberg road. Puett, 
however, got on the wrong road and 
turned south— leaving the northern ap- 
proach to Schonberg open. (About the 
same time, the cavalry troop at Andler 
pulled out.) Ultimately the 2d Battal- 
ion found its way through the dark across 
country and reached the 589th Field 
Artillery Battalion. Meanwhile the 
422d commander had swung his left 
battalion (the 2d) around to face north, 
expecting to link up with the reserve 
battalion. 

This, then, was the situation. The 
106th Division had lost relatively little 
ground during the daylight hours of the 
16th. Still, the enemy had succeeded in 
creating a shallow salient in the Win- 
terspelt sector, had penetrated between 
the 424th and 423d, and had uncovered 
the left flank and rear of the 42 2d In- 
fantry. Through the night of 16-17 
December, therefore, the German LXVI 
Corps continued to push its tired infan- 
try into these sectors, while fresh troops 



BREAKTHROUGH AT THE SCHNEE EIFEL 



157 



moved up with heavy weapons and 
motor vehicles for commitment on the 
morrow. There was no longer any doubt 
as to the German maneuver. The in- 
telligence section of the io6th Division 
staff analyzed the enemy plan correctly 
in its report on the night of 16 Decem- 
ber. "The enemy is capable of pinching 
off the Schnee Eifel area by employing 
one VG Division plus armor from 
the 14th Cavalry Group sector and one 
VG Division plus armor from the 423d 
Infantry sector at any time." This esti- 
mate hardly is vitiated by the fact that 
only one German division, the i8th 
Folks Grenadier, formed the pincers 
poised to grip the 106th Division. After 
all, the entire 62d Volks Grenadier Divi- 
sion stood poised to break through in 
the Winterspelt area and to strengthen 
or lengthen the southern jaw of the 
pincers. 

General Lucht, leading the LXVI 
Corps, could look with some compla- 
cency at the events of this first day, even 
though his left wing had failed to break 
through the American main line of re- 
sistance. Not a single one of the much 
feared Jabo's had appeared in the sky, 
the superior weight of metal available 
to the American artillery had not been 
utilized in the early and crucial hours 
of the assault, and the defenders on the 
Schnee Eifel had made not a single 
move to threaten the weak and grossly 
extended center of the i8th Volks Gren- 
adier Division. This inactivity by the 
io6th Division on the first day, com- 
bined with the failure to counter- 
attack against the weak center on the 
Schnee Eifel or the flanks of the Ger- 
man salients, was inexplicable to the 
German commanders but also a matter 
of relief. Lucht anticipated that the 



Americans would counterattack on 17 
December but that their reaction would 
come too late and the encirclements 
would be completed according to plan. 
His own plans for the second day were 
simple. On the right the mobile battal- 
ion of the i8th Volks Grenadier Division 
was already moving on Andler en route 
to seize the Schonberg bridge and the 
road to St. Vith. The left kampfgruppe 
of the 18 th also would make way for a 
mobile thrust. Finally, the 62d Volks 
Grenadier Division had orders to break 
loose at Heckhuscheid and drive for the 
Our valley "at all costs." 

By the night of 16 December Gen- 
eral Jones had committed all the re- 
serves available to the 106th Division 
except a battalion of engineers at St. 
Vith. But reinforcements, hastily gath- 
ered by the VIII Corps, First Army, and 
12 th Army Group, were on the way. 
When the 2d Infantry Division turned 
over its area to the 106 th it had taken 
its armored support, Combat Command 
B, 9th Armored Division, north to the 
V Corps sector. Replacement was made 
by the 9th Armored's Combat Com- 
mand R, which assembled at Trois Vier- 
ges— some twenty road miles south of 
St. Vith— in position to reinforce the 
106th if need should arise. This small 
armored group represented the only mo- 
bile counterattack force available in the 
VIII Corps. The extent of the German 
threat on 16 December, slowly compre- 
hended though it was, obviously re- 
quired more drastic countermeasures 
than the limited resources of the VIII 
Corps could provide. At 1025, therefore, 
the First Army released CCB, gth Ar- 
mored, to the VIII Corps, thus per- 
mitting Middleton to move his armored 
reserve (CCR) as a backstop for the 28th 



158 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



Division. CCB, gth Armored (Brig. Gen. 
William M. Hoge) , was assembled 
around Faymonville, about 12 miles 
north of St. Vith, awaiting orders to re- 
inforce the 2d Infantry Division attack 
toward the Roer River dams. 

The attachment of CCB to the 106th 
Division, as ordered by Middleton, was 
logical; Hoge's troops would be return- 
ing to old and familiar terrain. During 
the day CCB remained at Faymonville 
"attached in place," as the military 
verbalism runs. The io6th Division com- 
mander could not move CCB without 
corps approval and was not too con- 
cerned with the enemy advance in his 
northern sector. He made no move to put 
CCB on the road, merely ordering a 
platoon of its tank destroyers to St. Vith. 
Shortly after dark General Hoge and his 
staff arrived at St. Vith to confer with 
General Jones. There a plan was made 
for CCB to counterattack and retake 
Schonberg. This plan shortly was dis- 
carded for during the evening the corps 
commander telephoned Jones that he 
now could have additional armored 
help, that CCB, 7 th Armored Division, 
was on its way from the Ninth Army and 
would reach St. Vith by 0700 the next 
morning. 

As events would show, this estimate 
of the 7th Armored combat command's 
availability was far too sanguine. Why 
it was made is not clear. Lt. Col. 
W. M. Slayden of the VIII Corps staff 
was with General Jones at the time of 
this call. He later said that he should 
have warned Jones that the corps com- 
mander was "over optimistic" because 
he knew that the combat command 
was so far distant. In any case, Jones 
decided at midnight that the 7 th Ar- 
mored combat command should make 



the counterattack on the north flank 
and that Hoge's command should march 
at once to a position near Steinebriick, 
there ready to attack toward Winterspelt 
where incoming reports showed a rap- 
idly deteriorating situation. It would 
appear that this decision to employ 
CCB, gth Armored, on the south flank 
reflected either General Middleton's in- 
tention to restore the connection be- 
tween the io6th and 28th Divisions or 
a direct order from the corps to that 
effect. Also, the corps commander did 
not want to pass both armored com- 
mands through St. Vith. Subsequently, 
however, both commands did move 
through the city. 

The 424th Infantry and CCB, 
gth Armored 

On the morning of 17 December 
the precarious situation of the 424th In- 
fantry gave Colonel Reid reason to fear 
encirclement. His extended left flank 
was in the air. Because communications 
had failed, Reid did not know that his 
right flank was still covered by the 
112th Infantry. In any case, the enemy 
in this sector had brought up tanks 
and was attacking in considerable force. 
The 424th had its back to the Our Riv- 
er and if the enemy seized the bridge 
at Steinebriick and spread albng^ the 
far bank it would be hard put to with- 
draw westward. Communications with 
the division command post at St. Vith 
was limited to the exchange of liaison 
officers traveling along a road now be- 
ing shelled by the German guns. 

Through the early, dark hours of the 
17 th the enemy laid mortar and artil- 
lery fire on the front-line positions of 
the 424th. Opposite the right battalion, 



BREAKTHROUGH AT THE SCHNEE EIFEL 



159 



which thus far had held its ground, Ger- 
man patrols wormed forward to cut the 
barbed wire and lob hand grenades to- 
ward the American foxholes. An hour or 
so before dawn the German searchlights 
flickered on, followed by a storm of 
shells from guns and Werfers. The fus- 
illade actually was directed against the 
juncture between the 424th and 112th, 
but Company G, 424th, came under 
this fire and suffered many dead as day 
came and the pounding continued. The 
main German thrust, however, was made 
farther north, at Winterspelt. A com- 
pany or more of the 62d Folks Grenadier 
Division had taken possession of the 
eastern half of the village during the 
night and at daybreak reinforcements 
finally drove the 1st Battalion from 
Winterspelt. 

Even so, the 424th still blocked the 
road to the Our River and Steinebriick. 
To speed up the attack, the German 
corps commander, General Lucht, him- 
self hurried to Winterspelt to get the 
62d moving toward the Our. Ap- 
parently the 62d had become somewhat 
disorganized, its losses had been high, 
and its left regiment had made little 
headway in the Heckhuscheid sector. 
Furthermore, the division on its left, 
which had been pushing toward the 
south flank of the 424th, now pulled 
out and left the 62d to go it alone, seri- 
ously hampering Lucht's ability to 
exploit the dent hammered into the 
American lines at Winterspelt. But the 
right regiment of the 6 2d advanced al- 
most unopposed north of Winterspelt 
while the division center, now composed 
of the 2d Battalion, 164th Regiment, 
reinforced by assault guns and engineers, 
continued beyond Winterspelt to occupy 
the saddle which overlooked the ap- 



proaches to Steinebriick. The left wing 
of the 424th was pushed out of the way, 
folding back toward the south and west, 
but finally was pegged down by a scratch 
task force led by 1st Lt. Jarrett M. Hud- 
dleston, Jr. To hold this flank and ex- 
tend it as the enemy moved into the gap. 
Colonel Reid kept adding whatever 
troops he could find to this junior offi- 
cer's command. Steinebriick bridge re- 
mained in American hands. 

General Hoge's CCB, gth Armored 
Division, diverted to the Winterspelt 
area on the night of the 16th, arrived in 
St. Vith before dawn on the 17th and 
received its final orders. The armored 
infantry (27th Armored Infantry Bat- 
talion) would move at once to seize 
the series of hills near Winterspelt; the 
tanks (14th Tank Battalion) would as- 
semble west of the Our River and 
thence be committed as the situation 
unrolled. About this time the io6th 
Division commander borrowed a platoon 
of the 811th Tank Destroyer Battalion 
from CCB, sending it to Schonberg to 
relieve the forward command post of the 
io6th (the platoon did reach the 423d 
Infantry) . The situation in front of St. 
Vith was changing so rapidly that a pla- 
toon of the reconnaissance troop leading 
CCB had to be sent to defend the road 
out of St. Vith to the east, while a com- 
pany of tanks and another of tank de- 
stroyers were diverted to screen the 
entry of the 7th Armored Division. 

Word that Winterspelt was no longer 
in friendly hands reached CCB just as 
its two leading rifle companies started 
moving to the Our. By 0930 one com- 
pany was across the river and had run 
into German infantry dug in along the 
high ground overlooking the village of 
Elcherath, fifteen hundred yards from 



160 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



Steinebriick. The terrain and general 
uncertainty as to the enemy strength 
and dispositions dictated a co-ordinated 
attack. By noon the i6th Armored Field 
Artillery Battalion was in position west 
of the river to support the attack. At 
this time General Hoge had in hand 
three companies of armored infantry 
and the 14th Tank Battalion, a force 
deemed sufficient to drive the Germans 
back from Elcherath. But the enemy 
also was bringing up reinforcements, for 
at noon an American spotter plane re- 
ported a column of vehicles entering 
Winterspelt (perhaps this was the 2d 
Battalion of the 164th Regiment) . 

Two companies of the 27 th Armored 
Infantry Battalion (Lt. Col. George W. 
Seeley) advanced to clear the hills flank- 
ing Elcherath while Company B moved 
along the main road. Threshed by 
small arms fire from the grenadiers on 
the wooded slopes Company B suffered 
about forty casualties, but the surprise 
appearance of a tank platoon shook the 
enemy infantry somewhat. About ninety 
Germans, hands high, came forward to 
surrender. A little after 1500 General 
Hoge ordered his infantry to halt and 
dig in; he had decided to throw in the 
less vulnerable tank battalion and 
thrust for the high ground east of Win- 
terspelt. The 14th Tank Battalion was 
on its way to the Steinebriick bridge 
when the assistant division commander 
of the io6th arrived with word from 
General Jones that Hoge might make 
the attack if he wished, but that CCB 
must withdraw behind the Our that 
night. Since there was little or no point 
to further effort in the direction of Win- 
terspelt, Hoge told his infantry to dig 
in and wait for nightfall, then with- 
drew the tanks to their assembly area. 



In the early afternoon Colonel Reid 
had gathered the staff of the 424th to 
review the regimental position. Nothing 
was known of friendly units to the right 
and left; no information was getting 
through from the division headquar- 
ters; the enemy appeared to be work- 
ing his way around the left flank of the 
424th and had penetrated into the regi- 
mental service area. If a withdrawal was 
to be made starting in the early evening, 
preparations would have to begin at 
once. Reid decided to hold where he was 
for he had no orders releasing his regi- 
ment from the "hold at all costs" mis- 
sion. Finally, at 1730, the regimental 
liaison officer arrived with orders from 
Jones that the 424th should withdraw 
immediately. During the night of 17-18 
December both CCB, gth Armored, 
and the 424th Infantry made a success- 
ful move across the river, although in 
the hurried withdrawal the latter was 
forced to leave much equipment be- 
hind. The line now occupied by these 
two units stretched a distance of seven 
thousand yards, from Weppler (north- 
east of Steinebriick) south to Burg Reu- 
land. 

The intervention of the gth Armored 
combat command had not achieved 
the results which had been hoped for, 
but had contributed indirectly to the 
successful withdrawal of the 424th In- 
fantry and had delayed the drive by 
the 62d Volks Grenadier Division toward 
the Our crossings— and St. Vith. The 
German division commander later 
wrote of the "serious crisis" caused by 
the American counterattacks around El- 
cherath. The heavy concentration of 
American artillery supporting CCB al- 
so gave the Germans pause. It seems 
probable that the failure of the iS^d 



BREAKTHROUGH AT THE SCHNEE EIFEL 



161 



Regiment to make any headway 
against the American right wing in the 
Heckhuscheid sector on 16 and 17 De- 
cember was largely caused by the sharp 
tactics in progressive displacement and 
the excellent defensive fires of the 591st 
Field Artillery Battalion (Lt. Col. 
Phillip F. Hoover) and its reinforcing 
battalions from the corps artillery. The 
8-inch howitzers of the 578th Field Ar- 
tillery Battalion, for example, fired 108 
tons of shells between the beginning of 
the German attack and 1030 on 17 De- 
cember against the enemy attack posi- 
tions opposite the 424th Infantry. But 
only in the Heckhuscheid-Winterspelt 
sector had the prearranged and sizable 
groupment of VIII Corps artillery be- 
hind the corps left wing played any de- 
cisive role on 16 and 17 December. 

Cannae in the Schnee Eifel 

During a telephone conversation ear- 
ly in the evening of 16 December the 
corps commander had apprised Gen- 
eral Jones of his concern over the se- 
curity of the 422d and 423d Regiments. 
General Middleton stressed the impor- 
tance of retaining the Schnee Eifel posi- 
tion but told Jones that it was unten- 
able unless the north flank could be 
"heavily protected." Later, when re- 
ports coming into the corps headquar- 
ters at Bastogne indicated that enemy 
pressure along the corps front was not 
only continuing but increasing. Middle- 
ton got a call from Jones in which the 
106 th commander made a tentative sug- 
gestion to pull the two regiments back 
to less exposed positions. Middleton 
answered in the sense of the time-hon- 
ored Army rule of decision by "the man 
on the ground" and left the phone ex- 



pecting Jones to withdraw.^ Perhaps 
General Jones's opinion was altered by 
the knowledge that armored support 
was on its way, perhaps by the VIII Corps 
order, received somewhat later, that no 
troops were to be withdrawn unless 
their positions became completely un- 
tenable. (However, the "hold at all 
costs" line drawn to accompany this or- 
der was fixed as the west bank of the 
Our and all nine rifle battalions of the 
io6th Division were east of that river.) 
Perhaps Jones felt that the corps com- 
mander was passing the buck and would 
leave him in the lurch if a withdrawal 
order was issued. In any case Jones de- 
cided not to withdraw the two regi- 
ments. 

The fateful day for the 106th Division 
would be 17 December. On both sides 
of the battle line reinforcements were 
moving, the Germans to close the trap 
on the Schnee Eifel troops, the Amer- 
icans to wedge its jaws apart. The bat- 
tle had continued all through the night 
of 16-17 December, with results whose 
impact would be fully appreciated only 
after daylight on the 17 th. 

Colonel Devine, the 14th Cavalry 
group commander, left the 106th Divi- 
sion command post about 0800 on the 
morning of 17 December, still, insofar as 
it can be ascertained, without instruc- 
tions. The previous evening V Corps had 
asked VIII Corps to re-establish contact 
between the 99th Division and the 14th 
Cavalry. This call had been routed to 
Colonel Devine, at St. Vith, who spoke 
on the phone to the 99th Division head- 
quarters and agreed to regain contact at 
Wereth. The conversation took place 

' Combat Interv with Middleton and Evans; 
also Ltr, Middleton to Theater Historian ETO, 
30 Jul 45. 



162 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



about 2130. But in the ensuing hours 
the situation of Devine's command had 
altered radically. 

It will be recalled that the 14th Cav- 
alry Group had withdrawn to the Holz- 
heim-Andler line, breaking contact with 
the enemy. About 1830 on 16 December 
the units of the 18th Reconnaissance 
Squadron which had moved to Holzheim 
on the left' of the line withdrew to 
Wereth, farther west, with the consent 
of the group commander. This move 
left Troop A of tjie gad by itself at 
Holzheim. The troop commander was 
concerned with his exposed left flank 
and requested permission to move to 
Honsfeld, in the 99th Division zone, 
somewhat over two miles to the north. 
Group headquarters was loath to ap- 
prove such a move and asked for a report 
by liaison officer. Finally the commander 
of Troop A decided to act on his own 
initiative; the troop reached Honsfeld 
at 2100 and was incorporated in the 
defense of that village. Its subsequent 
story belongs with that of the 99th 
Division. 

During the evening German troops 
had been reported on the road south 
of Holzheim. The executive officer of 
the 3 2d Squadron received this report 
at Herresbach, where the squadron 
headquarters and Troops E and C were 
assembled. Although no Germans had 
yet appeared, the executive officer was 
apprehensive lest Herresbach become a 
cul-de-sac. The road southeast to Andler 
might be ambushed. The poor secondary 
road northwest to Wereth was blocked 
by fallen trees, probably felled by the 
Belgians. Reconnaissance showed one 
way out of the village, a poor dirt trail, 
which led westward for about four miles 
and there joined a fairly good road. It 



was decided that this trail would be used 
if the elements in Herresbach had to 
withdraw any farther. 

As a result of the reshuffling during 
the night the cavalry position extended 
obliquely southeast from Wereth 
through Herresbach to Andler. Troop 
B at Andler, then, lay close to the enemy, 
directly astride the main approach to 
Schonberg and St. Vith. At daybreak 
two of the troop's reconnaissance teams 
—about twenty men— were suddenly en- 
gulfed by Tiger tanks and infantry. 
This apparition was the ^o6th Panzer 
Battalion which had been thrown in by 
the Sixth Panzer Army to reinforce its 
advance toward Vielsalm, and which had 
detoured south of the interarmy bound- 
ary in search of a passable road. Con- 
tact was momentary. Troop B hastily 
withdrew south to Schonberg while the 
Tigers went lumbering off to the 
northwest. Now that Andler was in en- 
emy hands the gsd Cavalry Squadron at 
Herresbach was isolated. The squadron 
executive officer requested permission to 
withdraw via the woods trail, which had 
been surveyed earlier, and the 14th Cav- 
alry Group commander— who had ar- 
rived at his command post in Meyerode 
—gave consent. About 0830 the gsd 
Squadron and the numerous strays and 
stragglers who had congregated in Her- 
resbach began the difficult move. All ve- 
hicles finally emerged from the woods 
and joined group headquarters at Meye- 
rode. 

Thus far only Troop B had actually 
seen and engaged the Germans. Troop 
B was hit again at Schonberg, this time 
by elements of the 2g4th Regiment led 
in person by the i8th Folks Grenadier 
Division commander, and headed west 
along the St. Vith road, looking for a 



BREAKTHROUGH AT THE SCHNEE EIFEL 



163 



defile or cut which would afford an 
effective delaying position. The aban- 
donment of Schonberg proved to be 
decisive. The northern kampfgruppe 
of the i8th Folks Grenadier Division 
would shortly be joined by the south- 
ern, which had just broken through the 
American lines at Bleialf, thus closing 
the trap on the American forces within 
the triangle Auw-Schonberg-Bleialf. 

Troop B finally reached a favorable 
point at a sharp bend in the road near 
Heuem, about 2,000 yards west of Schon- 
berg. Here, while other American tro.ops 
streamed through from the east, the 
cavalry deployed its six armored cars and 
ten machine gun and mortar jeeps. When 
the first German vehicle, a tank or as- 
sault gun, rounded the bend two of the 
armored cars opened up with g^-mm. 
guns which did no damage but induced 
it to withdraw. Then, for nearly two 
hours, the troopers' light machine guns 
and mortars repelled every attempt that 
the advance guard of the 2^4 th made to 
move forward. Finally at 1050 the 14th 
Cavalry Group sent radio orders for 
Troop B to withdraw through St. Vith 
and rejoin the gad Squadron northeast 
of that city. This move was part of a 
general withdrawal which Colonel De- 
vine had ordered on his own initiative 
after scouts sent out by the 18th Squad- 
ron at Wereth reported seeing German 
troops to the west (probably the advance 
guard of the Parachute Division 
moving in the direction of Malmedy) . 

By noontime, or shortly thereafter, 
the gad Squadron was in position at 
Wall erode and the 18th Squadron was 
on the high ground at Born, northwest of 
Wallerode. On the whole this repre- 
sented a favorable defensive line and 
placed the group in position to block the 



main road from Biillingen in the north 
to St. Vith. Colonel Devine informed the 
headquarters at St. Vith that he had 
withdrawn to a "final delaying position," 
and sent an overlay to the io6th com- 
mand post showing the new position. 
Furthermore, Devine advised that he 
would "have [a] counterattack force 
available your orders." It seems that 
General Jones did not question this 
latest retrograde movement, for it was 
reported to the VIII Corps forthwith 
and without comment. At 1220 the G-3 
journal of the io6th Division records a 
telephone message from the 14th Cav- 
alry Group asking for "the general plan" 
(this was an hour after the withdrawal 
message arrived at St. Vith) . The reply 
was "stay on the line where you are. Ln 
O coming to you." 

Although the 106th Division had not 
ordered the group to withdraw in the 
first instance to the Wallerode-Born posi- 
tion, a cavalry screen in this area would 
be very useful as outpost cover for the 
yth Armored Division elements still 
moving south to St. Vith. Certainly a 
roadblock here to the north of the city 
was essential. 

But once more the group commander 
gave the order to withdraw, this about 
1530. There never has been a clear 
explanation for this order; the group had 
no contact with the enemy and had re- 
ported the Wallerode-Born line as a 
"final delaying position." A liaison offi- 
cer from the io6th Division was at the 
group command post, but it is impossible 
to say whether Colonel Devine received 
any definite order to hold this position. 
Liaison officers carried the new orders to 
the two squadrons: the 18th to occupy 
the village of Recht and the 32d to de- 
ploy along the Recht River astride the 



164 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



St. Vith-Vielsalm road. Again there was 
confusion, either in the orders issued or 
their execution. Instead of moving back 
by separate roads both squadrons moved 
onto the main highway leading west 
from St. Vith to Vielsalm. Darkness 
found the group caught up in the traffic 
jam, three columns wide, crawling slowly 
out of or into St. Vith. 

Before dawn, on 17 December, the 
enemy renewed his attack to envelop the 
major part of the 106th Division. At 
0725 a radio message from the 423d In- 
fantry reported that the Germans had 
overrun Bleialf and requested the divi- 
sion to send help at once to prevent a 
thrust in force to the north. In the 14th 
Cavalry Group sector, the enemy was in 
Andler and driving toward Schonberg. 
Finally, at 0905, the news reached the 
106th Division command post in St. Vith 
that the enemy forces striking north from 
Bleialf had pushed the 423d Infantry 
back to the northeast and had joined 
hands with the forces at Schonberg. The 
German plan of envelopment had suc- 
ceeded—the 422d and 423d Regiments 
were encircled. The only question re- 
maining was whether the two units 
could break out or be released by an 
American counterthrust from the west. 
The answer lies in the state and disposi- 
tions of the trapped regiments. 

The 2d Battalion, 423d, committed 
the previous evening, had organized a 
defensive position astride the Auw- 
Bleialf road close behind the belea- 
guered 589th Field Artillery Battalion. 
Most of the 589th reached the infantry 
lines, but Battery C had become mired 
in an area which was under 
constant fire and toward dawn the 
bogged howitzers were destroyed 
where they lay. The medium pieces of 



the 592d Field Artillery Battalion had 
been less close-pressed by the German 
infantry; during the early morning of 17 
December the battalion, with only one 
howitzer missing, withdrew to St. Vith. 
The two remaining batteries of the 589th 
w^ere less fortunate. While en route to 
St. Vith the column was surprised on the 
road about a mile south of Schonberg; 
three of the remaining pieces were lost 
there (two had been lost at firing posi- 
tions) . The three howitzers left to the 
battalion were emplaced in support of 
the hasty defenses being reared around 
St. Vith. The 590th Field Artillery Bat- 
talion, having moved north from the 
423d Infantry zone during the night, also 
was en route to the west when suddenly 
its escape was blocked by the tanks which 
had struck the 589th. Reconnaissance 
showed that the other exit routes were 
held by the enemy or were mired to the 
extent of being impassable. The bat- 
talion therefore rejoined the forces in 
the pocket and took up firing positions 
in the Halenfelder Wald. This one 
battalion of the division artillery 
could be of little help, for its service 
battery, sent west for ammunition, would 
be unable to return. 

While the artillery was attempting es- 
cape, with varying degrees of success, the 
2d Battalion, 423d, repelled two enemy 
attempts to advance south of Auw. 
Meanwhile patrols had discovered some 
German troops at Laudesfeld, about a 
thousand yards west of the battalion 
positions. The 2d Battalion commander, 
now out of contact with the command 
post at St. Vith, decided to fall back and 
defend Schonberg. When the battalion 
finally turned to follow the artillery out 
of the trap, it found the way effectively 
blocked by German tanks. Although the 



BREAKTHROUGH AT THE SCHNEE EIFEL 



165 



battalion antitank guns did well in the 
unequal contest with the panzers— de- 
stroying three at one point— neither they 
nor the attached platoon of tank de- 
stroyers could hope to force the entry to 
the Schonberg road. Puett's battalion 
could now move only in one direction— 
to the east. At noontime the 2d Battalion 
joined the 423d Infantry near Radscheid. 
Communication with the division having 
failed, Puett placed himself and his bat- 
talion at the disposal of the commander 
of the 423d and was ordered into the 
perimeter defense slowly forming. 

It is probable that both the 423d and 
42 2d were aware of their plight by 0900; 
at least radio reports of the unsuccessful 
attempt by the 590th to run the Schon- 
berg gantlet had been received. The 
io6th Division took cognizance of the 
situation in which the regiments now 
found themselves by a radio order sent 
out at 0945: "Withdraw from present 
positions if they become untenable." 
The message added that the division ex- 
pected to clear out the area "west of you" 
with reinforcements during the after- 
noon. This communication, unfortu- 
nately, was delayed in transit. Actually 
neither regiment made any move except 
to bring some troops out of the Schnee 
Eifel and sketch in perimeter defenses. 
The only contact between the 42 2d and 
423d was by radio and patrols. During 
the afternoon the enemy constricted 
their hold, albeit loosely by deployment 
along the Bleialf-Auw road, but on the 
whole the Americans were left to their 
own devices while German infantry, 
guns, and vehicles poured past on their 
way to the west. 

The early morning breakthrough in 
the Bleialf sector, necessary to the Ger- 
man encirclement of the Schnee Eifel 



forces, had been accomplished by the 
southern jaw of the German vise only 
after strong exhortation and admonition 
of the 2C)^d Regiment by its parent divi- 
sion and corps. At the close of 16 Decem- 
ber the provisional battalion of the 423d 
Infantry still held Bleialf, from which the 
enemy had been ejected earlier in the 
day. During the night the 2^5 d Regi- 
ment re-formed for the attack, urged on 
by its higher headquarters, and at 0530 
the next morning struck Bleialf in force. 
Within an hour the attackers had driven 
the provisional battalion from the vil- 
lage (the Germans later reported a stiff 
fight) and were on the march north to 
Schonberg. Nothing stood in the way, al- 
though the enemy vanguard ran into the 
American artillery withdrawal and was 
slightly delayed, and about 0900 the lead- 
ing troops of the 2^5 d met their division 
commander and his battalion from the 
2p^th near Schonberg. 

Most of the Bleialf garrison succeeded 
in joining the two rifle battalions of the 
423d. But on the extreme right flank of 
the regiment, south of Bleialf, elements 
of Company B, 81st Engineer Battalion, 
were overrun and Troop B, 1 8th Cavalry 
Squadron, was left isolated. Unable to 
reach the 423d, the troop was given per- 
mission to try the Schonberg exit. About 
dark Troop B started north, followed by 
a part of the io6th Reconnaissance 
Troop which had become separated 
from the 424th Infantry. Keeping to the 
west of the enemy-occupied Bleialf- 
Schonberg road, the cavalry column 
reached the edge of Schonberg. (By this 
time the situation was so confused that 
a Volkswagen full of grenadiers moved 
into the column just ahead of an armored 
car— whose gunner promptly destroyed 
the intruding vehicle and its occupants.) 



166 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



Because Schonberg was known to be 
in German hands, the 3d Platoon moved 
in to determine the situation. The pla- 
toon had crossed the Our bridge and was 
at the north end of the village when 
there appeared a column of American 
trucks, but filled with Germans carrying 
arms. The three armored cars, forming 
the point of the platoon, wheeled over 
to the side of the road and raced toward 
the head of the column, firing their ma- 
chine guns and 3'7-mm. cannon as they 
passed the yelling Germans. Suddenly a 
Mark IV tank slipped out of a side road. 
Only one of the American armored cars 
got away. When informed by radio of 
this engagement the 423d Infantry in- 
structed Troop B to "make your own 
decision." Unsuccessful in finding any 
passable secondary road, the troopers 
destroyed their vehicles and broke up 
into small groups for the journey toward 
St. Vith. Hiding by day and traveling by 
night some fifty reached the St. Vith 
lines. The io6th Reconnaissance Troop 
had become completely disorganized 
while following Troop B, and one pla- 
toon was left in Grosslangenfeld with 
neither orders nor word of the with- 
drawal. Most of the officers and men sur- 
rendered the next morning without a 
fight.8 

When darkness came on 1 "7 December, 
some eight or nine thousand Americans 
were effectively bottled up west of the 
Schnee Eifel. Their story henceforth has 
little connection with events outside the 
pocket. In addition to the 42 2d and 423d 
Infantry Regiments the list of attached 
and supporting units that were severed 
from the main thread of American op- 



* This according to the FUSA Inspector General 
report. 



erations included all or part of the 

following: 

589th Field Artillery Battalion (-) 
590th Field Artillery Battalion 
Company B, 81st Engineer Battal- 
ion 

Battery D, 634th Antiaircraft Auto- 
matic Weapons Battalion 

Company C, 820th Tank Destroyer 
Battalion 

Company B, 331st Medical Battal- 
ion 

106th Reconnaissance Troop 
Troop B, 18th Cavalry Reconnais- 
sance Squadron (-) 

The 42 2d Infantry on that night was 
forming a perimeter defense, its center 
south of Schlausenbach. To the south- 
west the 423d Infantry was assuming a 
similar stance on the high ground around 
Oberlascheid and Buchet. At the mo- 
ment there was no shortage of rifle 
ammunition, there was a basic load for 
the mortars (but the 590th Field Artil- 
lery Battalion had only about 300 rounds 
for its 105-mm. howitzers) , approxi- 
mately one day's extra K rations were at 
hand, and surgical supplies were very 
short. Most of the regimental vehicles 
had been saved— although the service 
company of the 42 2d had been cut oft 
near Auw and some kitchen trucks had 
been lost. Casualties were not high in 
either regiment; the 42 2d, for example, 
reported only forty wounded for evacua- 
tion. 

Both regimental commanders had 
been assured by radio that reinforce- 
ments from the west would attempt to 
break through sometime after daylight 
on 18 December and, further, that sup- 
plies would be dropped by air. A divi- 
sion order to withdraw to the Our River, 



BREAKTHROUGH AT THE SCHNEE EIFEL 



167 



sent out at 1445, was followed six hours 
later by the question: "When do you 
plan to move?" These orders, relayed 
through the artillery radio net, took a 
long time and much repetition before 
they could reach the entrapped regi- 
ments. The initial order to withdraw 
to the Our River line was not received 
until about midnight of the 17th. The 
two regimental commanders agreed that 
this order now was out of date because 
messages, signed later in the day, had 
promised resupply by air. 

Late in the evening of the 17 th Gen- 
eral Jones consulted the VIII Corps 
commander and at 0215 the next morn- 
ing sent out an order: "Panzer regtl CT 
on Elmerscheid *-Sch6nberg-St. Vith 
Rd, head near St. Vith. Our mission is to 
destroy by fire from dug in positions S 
of Schonberg-St. Vith Rd. Am, food and 
water will be dropped. When mission 
accomplished, move to area St. Vith- 
Wallerode— Weppler. Organize and move 
to W." This message reached the 423d 
Infantry, which alone had some sporadic 
radio link with the division, about 0730; 
it reached the 42 2d Infantry about half 
an hour later. The regimental com- 
manders decided to begin the move to 
the west at 1000, with their regiments 
abreast (although the only contact was 
by patrol) and in column of battalions. 
As understood, the mission was to ad- 
vance across the Bleialf-Schonberg road 
and attack from the south side of the 
road between Schonberg and St. Vith, 
that is, bypassing Schonberg. 

From the time of this joint decision 
there was little contact between the regi- 
ments. The 423d destroyed its kitchens 

" Probably this message referred to the Amel- 
scheid "cut-off" through which the Americans had 
been attempting to evade the enemy. 



and excess equipment, left the wounded 
with medical aid men in the regimental 
collecting station, and started off on the 
road through Oberlascheid and Rad- 
scheid.i" About 1130 Puett's 2d Battal- 
ion, leading, met the Germans near the 
Schonberg-Bleialf road. With the aid of 
its heavy weapons company, whose mor- 
tars did yeoman service, the battalion 
began to push the enemy back toward 
Bleialf. Meanwhile Colonel Cavender 
had gone forward to see what the situa- 
tion was, but en route he received a radio 
message from General Jones telling him 
that the relief attack by the American 
armor would not take place and ordering 
the two regiments to shift their move to 
Schonberg. Cavender passed word of 
this new mission to Colonel Descheneaux 
and ordered his own 3d Battalion to 
come up on Puett's right. At noon Puett 
sent an urgent plea for help, but none 
arrived at this critical point in the fire 
fight and the attack finally lost momen- 
tum. The 3d Battalion had advanced 
across the Ihren Creek and dug in per- 
haps 1,000 to 1,500 yards from the edge 
of Schonberg, but in doing so lost touch 
with both its own regiment and the 42 2d 
Infantry. About dusk the 1st Battalion 
was put in on the left of the 2d to help 
clear the German infantry from the 
woods astride the Bleialf-Schonberg 
road, but the psychological moment had 
passed." 

The last message from the division 
(actually dispatched at 1445 the day be- 
fore) was heard an hour or so before 

™ Lt. Col. William Craig, commanding officer of 
the 1st Battalion, died of wounds on this day. 

" 1st Lt. R. H. Thompson personally destroyed 
two enemy machine guns and their crews in this 
series of actions; he then made a lone attack on 
an enemy assault gun and was seriously wounded. 
He received the DSC. 



168 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



midnight, "It is imperative that Schon- 
berg be taken." Colonel Cavender al- 
ready had decided to disengage his two 
left battalions, in light of the next mis- 
sion, and shift northward to support a 
dawn attack by the 3d Battalion. By this 
time the 423d was going it alone, for all 
attempts to reach the sister regiment had 
failed. During the night the regiment 
pulled itself together in some semblance 
of order along Ridge 536, just southeast 
of Schonberg. Losses had been high- 
some 300 casualties (including 16 offi- 
cers) . No more rounds were left for the 
81 -mm. mortars, most of the machine 
guns were gone, there was little bazooka 
ammunition, and rifle clips were low. 

The surrounding enemy forces were 
surprised that the American regiments 
made no move to counterattack during 
the night of 18—19 December; one report 
says: "In the Kessel absolute quiet 
reigned." The troops actually ringing the 
pocket were relatively few: the 2p^d In- 
fantry Regiment, the i8th Volks Grena- 
dier Division Replacement Battalion 
(which had come over the Schnee Eifel) , 
and the newly arrived 66pth Ost Battal- 
ion. Since the roads at the Schonberg 
bottleneck were jammed, the LXVI 
Corps commander could bring only one 
battalion of field guns that far forward; 
therefore the corps artillery was in- 
structed to concentrate fire on the 
pocket during the 19th. 

The 423d still was attempting to form 
for the attack, when, an hour or so after 
dawn on 19 December, German field 
pieces along the Bleialf-Schonberg road 
opened fire, sweeping the southeastern 
slope of Ridge 536. Soon the shelling 
ceased and the enemy infantry closed in, 
overrunning the 590th Field Artillery 
Battalion and other heterogeneous units 



which had been moving in the rear of 
the rifle battalions. Despite this blow 
Lt. Col. Earl F. Klinck's 3d Battalion 
jumped off in good order at 1000. One 
company was cut off and captured, but 
two rifle companies reached the environs 
of Schonberg, then had to retire in a 
storm of antiaircraft fire. The 1st Battal- 
ion was able to put one company in the 
advance, but by midafternoon it was 
eliminated. When brought forward on 
the right the 2d Battalion became sepa- 
rated and was subjected to fire from the 
42 2d Infantry, then about 400 yards to 
the north. At last, with tactical control 
gone, only five to ten rifle rounds per 
man, no supporting weapons, and an in- 
creasing number of wounded untended 
(despite yeoman effort by the regimental 
surgeon, Maj. Gaylord D. Fridline, and 
his staff) , the commander of the 423d 
Infantry surrendered his regiment. The 
time was about 1630. 

The experience of the 42 2d Infantry 
was very similar to that of its sister regi- 
ment. Largely quiescent during the 17th, 
the 42 2d acted as promptly as possible 
when the division order was received on 
the following morning. Colonel Desche- 
neaux, acting in concert with the 423d, 
ordered an advance in column of battal- 
ions, the axis to the northwest in the 
direction of Schonberg. Excess equip- 
ment was destroyed, the wounded were 
left with an aid man, the regimental can- 
non company fired its last smoke rounds 
into Auw (as a slight deterrent to enemy 
observers), then spiked the pieces. In two 
columns— one made up of foot troops 
lugging all portable weapons, the other 
made up of regimental vehicles— the 
movement encountered nothing but 
small groups of the enemy. Reconnais- 
sance had been confined to the map, al- 



BREAKTHROUGH AT THE SCHNEE EIFEL 



169 



though the I and R Platoon was used 
as point during the march, and when 
the two columns reassembled at dusk the 
422d was lost. A wood had been selected 
on the map as a suitable assembly area 
from which to launch a co-ordinated 
attack against Schonberg, this about one 
and a half miles from the village. In fact, 
however, the regiment had bivouacked 
northeast of Oberlascheid in a wood 
about three miles from its objective— 
nor apparently was anyone the wiser. 

During the early evening the I and R 
Platoon reported that contact had been 
made with the neighboring regiment, 
which intended to attack Schonberg. No 
further liaison was made. While gunfire 



sounded off to the west and northwest 
the rifle battalions marched through the 
darkness to three smaller woods, prepara- 
tory for an attack at daylight on the i.gth. 
The dispositions now taken were farther 
to the north, facing the Bleialf-Auw 
road, with the battalions deployed so that 
the 1st Battalion was farthest north, the 
2d Battalion in the center, and the 3d 
Battalion on the south. At daybreak the 
three battalions moved out abreast, ad- 
vancing in approach march formation 
toward the objective— Schonberg— be- 
lieved to be little more than a mile 
distant. The leading troops were just 
crossing the Bleialf-Auw road when they 
were hit by machine gun and tank fire 




American Prisoners. The tank is a German Tiger. 



170 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



coming from the north. At this point the 
road curved to the east, and the enemy 
apparently had taken a position in woods 
north of the bend which allowed him to 
enfilade the straightway. The ist Battal- 
ion commander ordered his men to turn 
back from the road and move southward. 
In the meantime the sd and 3d Battal- 
ions had jumped off, but at the road 
their lead companies also came under 
severe frontal and flanking fire. 

It will be recalled that the 422d and 
its sister regiment to the south had no 
contact. While the right wing battalion 
of the 433d was attempting to advance 
northwestward, it was discerned by the 
left flank troops of the 42 2d who, mis- 
taking this movement for a German 
flanking attack, poured bullet fire into 
the draw where the men of the 423d 
were moving. In the brief exchange of 
fire which followed both these inner 
flank units became considerably disor- 
ganized. 

But finally it was fire superiority in 
the hands of the enemy which checked 
further movement. About 1400, tanks 
were heard approaching from the north. 
In a last desperate flare of optimism the 
Americans thought that these were 
friendly tanks-but they were not. By a 
stroke of ill fortune the Fuehrer Begleit 
Brigade had been ordered forward to 
support the LXVI Corps attack on St. 
Vith. En route from Auw to Schonberg, 
the panzers arrived at the fork where 
the road split toward Schonberg and 
Bleialf just in time to give the coup-de- 
grdce. The tanks rolled through the bat- 
talions on the right while the German 
infantry poured in from the woods. At 
1430 the regimental commander decided 
to surrender that part of his regiment 
which was disorganized and entrapped. 



After negotiations to determine that the 
Germans would feed the Americans and 
provide care for the wounded, the sur- 
render was completed about 1 600. 

A group of about 400, however, were 
reorganized by the 2d Battalion execu- 
tive officer (Maj. Albert A. Ouellette) 
in the woods which had been the 2d 
Battalion assembly area. This group at- 
tempted to move southwest the follow- 
ing day, but it too was surrounded. After 
destroying weapons and equipment Oue- 
Uette's people surrendered on the morn- 
ing of 21 December. Another band, 
representing most of the vehicular col- 
umn, had attempted to break out 
through Bleialf on the late afternoon of 
19 December but was halted by a mine 
field at the edge of the village, sur- 
rounded, and forced to capitulate. Not 
more than 150 men of the 42 2d Infantry 
succeeded in escaping to the American 
lines. 

The number of officers and men taken 
prisoner on the capitulation of the two 
regiments and their attached troops can- 
not be accurately ascertained. At least 
seven thousand were lost here and the 
figure probably is closer to eight or nine 
thousand. The amount lost in arms and 
equipment, of course, was very substan- 
tial. The Schnee Eifel battle, therefore, 
represents the most serious reverse suf- 
fered by American arms during the 
operations of 1944-45 in the European 
theater. The Americans would regard 
this defeat as a blow to Allied prestige. 
The Germans would see in this victory, 
won without great superiority in num- 
bers, a dramatic reaffirmation of the 
Schlieffen-Cannae concept. 

The fate of the two regiments was not 
immediately known to the io6th Divi- 
sion and the VIII Corps. The last mes- 



BREAKTHROUGH AT THE SCHNEE EIFEL 



171 



sage radioed out of the pocket had been 
dispatched at 1535 on 18 December, 
simply saying that the regiments had 
started to comply with the orders for an 
attack to the northwest; it was received at 
St. Vith on the morning of the 19th. By 
the night of the 20th the division must 
have given up hope, what with the Ger- 
man reinforcements from the east con- 
gregating in front of St. Vith, but one 
last attempt to reach the 423d Infantry 
by radio was made two days later. 

The Question of Air Resupply 

One question mark still dangles over 
the fate of the two regiments captured 
in the Schnee Eifel. Why were they not 
resupplied by airdrop? General Jones 
and the two regimental commanders 
made their wants known as early as the 
17th and evidently had some reason to 
believe that ammunition, medical sup- 
plies, and other necessities would be 
delivered to the encircled regiments be- 
fore they essayed the final attempt at 
escape. Although most of the processing 
involved in handling the io6th Division 
requests was by telephone and without 
record, two facts are certain: General 
Jones did all in his power to secure air 
resupply; the weather did permit planes 
to fly on 18 December when resupply 
was most needed. 



^ Much effort has been made to trace this story 
through the numerous headquarters which were 
involved, but there are great gaps in the journal 
files. Interviews with officers concerned have only 
compounded confusion, yielding bits and pieces o£ 
information, which, laclcing in written record, 
cannot be put together in sequence. Royce L. 
Thompson made an exhaustive searclr of the rec- 
ords and conducted a number o£ personal inter- 
views with officers involved in staffing the io6th 
requests. See his Air Supply to Isolated Units; 
Ardennes Campaign. OCMH, 1951. 



At 1051 on 17 December the com- 
mander of the 423d Infantry radioed a 
request for an airdrop. Relayed through 
the division artillery net, this request 
was logged in at the io6th Division head- 
quarters at 1 500. In the meantime Jones 
apparently decided to act on his own and 
asked the VIII Corps air officer to ar- 
range a resupply mission. The time of 
this conversation cannot be fixed, but by 
1345 a message was en route from St. 
Vith to the 423d Infantry promising a 
drop in the vicinity of Buchet "tonight." 
Within a quarter of an hour a second 
message was on the air for the 42 2d. The 
VIII Corps air officer (Lt. Col. Josiah T. 
Towne) meanwhile had relayed Jones's 
request through the IX Fighter Com- 
mand to the IX Tactical Air Com- 
mand.^^ At this point the chain of events 
and the chain of responsibility both be- 
come unclear. 

The IX Tactical Air Command nor- 
mally would have referred the request 
to First Army for clearance. The report 
of the G-4 at the latter headquarters 
simply says that on the afternoon of 17 
December the plight of the two regi- 
ments was made known by telephone 
calls and that preparations for supply by 
air "were promptly set in motion." " 
Since carrier planes would have to come 
from the United Kingdom it was neces- 
sary at some stage to bring CATOR 
(Combined Air Transport Operations 
Room) at SHAEF into the picture. How 
many telephone calls were made before 
the First Army request reached CATOR 

" Dupuy (St. Vith: Lion in the Way, page 
134£.) , goes no further than the First Army head- 
quarters to find a culprit, following in this the 
combat interview with Colonel Towne, 16 January 
1945- 

First United States Army, Report of Opera- 
tions, an. 2, G-4 Sec, p. laof. 



172 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



and how many headquarters were in- 
volved cannot be determined. 

The IX Troop Carrier Command, 
whose planes would fly the mission, got 
the word from CATOR sometime dur- 
ing the early morning of the i8th with 
orders to prepare forty planeloads of 
ammunition and medical supplies. The 
435th Troop Carrier Group, at Welford, 
drew this assignment and loaded up with 
parapacks and door bundles. Orders 
were precise. The group was to fly to the 
airfield at Florennes, Belgium, and there 
be briefed on the mission and meet its 
fighter cover. The Welford base was 
closing in when— at an unspecified time 
—the first serial took oft. Nonetheless 
twenty- three C-47's arrived in the air 
over Florennes. This field, it is reported, 
was "too busy to take care of the 435th 
formation," which was ordered to an- 
other field near Liege. The commander 
and his wingman landed at Florennes, 
however, only to find that there was no 
information for a briefing, nobody had 
the map co-ordinates for the scheduled 
drop, and no fighter escort had been 
arranged. During this time the 435th had 
been diverted again, finally landing at 
Dreux in France. Here the planes would 
stay until 23 December, their original 
mission on-again, oft-again daily. Some- 
where along the line additional requests 
from the io6th Division had swelled the 
mission to 138 planeloads and ultimately 
it was decided to make this larger drop 
with planes from the United Kingdom. 



The entire mission was canceled on a 2 
December in order to support the 101st 
Airborne Division at Bastogne.^^ 

Two melancholy facts emerge from 
this story: fixed responsibility and co- 
ordination were lacking; supplies pre- 
pared for airdropping had to come from 
the United Kingdom, despite the fact 
that Allied ground troops were at the 
German border. Attempts to prevent a 
similar fiasco were initiated in a matter 
of days, but too late to help the dispirited 
Americans marching into German cap- 
tivity. On ai December the lath Army 
Group issued an order "confirming" the 
procedure for airdrops to ground troops. 
This of course could be only a palliative 
so long as air and ground co-ordination 
remained in abeyance. A day later the 
commanding officer of the Communica- 
tions Zone, Lt. Gen. John C. H. Lee, 
requested SHAEF to set up stocks of 
ready-packed supplies, capable of air 
delivery, at airfields strategically located 
on the Continent. This proposal was 
accepted. 

Perhaps the co-ordination of separate 
services and the proper application of 
new military techniques must always be 
learned the hard way. If so, the cost is 
very dear and the prospect in future 
wars depressing. 



Headquarters, IX Troop Carrier Command, 
Operation Repulse, Resupply by Air, Belgium, 
December 1944 (January 1945); 435th Troop Car- 
rier Group Unit History, MS dated 1 January 
1945- 



CHAPTER VIII 



The Fifth Panzer Army Attacks 
the 28th Infantry Division 



The battle plans and tactics of the 
Fifth Panzer Army, more than those of 
any other German army that took part 
in the Ardennes counteroffensive, bore 
the very strong personal imprint of its 
commander, General Manteuffel. As a 
junior officer in the prewar panzer 
troops, Manteuffel had made a mark as 
an armored specialist. His record in 
North Africa and Russia, where he 
achieved a reputation for energetic 
leadership and personal bravery, 
brought him to Hitler's attention and 
promotion directly from a division to an 
army command. Despite the failure of 
his Fifth Panzer Army in the Lorraine 
campaign against Patton's Third Army, 
Manteuffel was listed by Hitler for com- 
mand in the Ardennes. His staff, care- 
fully selected and personally devoted to 
the little general, was probably the best 
German staff on the Western Front. 

Manteuffel had found himself in al- 
most complete disagreement with the 
original operations plan handed down by 
Jodl in November. He was able to con- 
vince the Army Group B commander 
that a stand should be taken on a number 
of tactical points which, in Manteuffel's 
judgment, were essential to success in the 
forthcoming attack. In the last planning 
conference held at Hitler's headquarters. 
Model and Manteuffel combined forces 



in a forthright appeal that carried the 
day on a series of tactical decisions al- 
though it failed to sway the Fuehrer 
from his strategic decision for the Big 
Solution. The Fifth Panzer Army com- 
mander was bitterly opposed to that part 
of the plan which called for a tremen- 
dous opening barrage at 0800 and a two- 
hour artillery preparation before the 
attack jumped off. He argued that the 
enemy literally must not be awakened 
and that the assault forces should move 
forward the moment the guns sounded. 
This point was conceded when Hitler 
ruled that the artillery fires along the 
entire front would begin at 0530. Man- 
teuffel also held strongly for infiltration 
tactics by small detachments, such as 
were conventionally employed by both 
opponents on the Eastern Front. Hitler 
himself seems to have favored this con- 
cept (it is found in the first Fuehrer 
operations order) , but only in the Fifth 
Panzer attack would assault detachments 
be found inside the American positions 
when the initial barrage opened up. 

Manteuffel likewise opposed the con- 
cept proposed by Jodl in which the 
attack would be carried by two panzer 
corps advancing in column. He wanted 
an attack on a broad front with both 
tank corps in the line at the opening 
gun— this point Hitler conceded. View- 



174 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 





General von Manteuffel 



General von Luettwitz 



ing the ground in front o£ his right ar- 
mored corps as especially difficult, Man- 
teuffel would give Generaloberst Walter 
Krueger's LVIII Panzer Corps a fairly 
narrow front for the initial assault. Be- 
lieving that once across the Our River, 
his left armored attack force. General 
der Panzertruppen Heinrich Freiherr 
von Luettwitz' XLVII Panzer Corps, 
would find the going better than on the 
right, he assigned Luettwitz a rather 
wide front. In final form, the L VIII Pan- 
zer Corps' mission was to cross the Our 
River on both sides of Ouren, drive west 
on the Houffalize axis, and create a 
bridgehead over the Meuse River in the 
neighborhood of Namur and Andenne. 
At the same time the XLVII Panzer 
Corps would cross the Our in the vicin- 
ity of Dasburg and Gemiind, push west 



via Clerf, seize the vital road center at 
Bastogne, form in a deep column eche- 
loned to the left and rear, then race for 
the Meuse River crossings south of Na- 
mur. Manteuffel had two armored forma- 
tions in reserve, the Panzer Lehr 
Division and the Fuehrer Begleit Bri- 
gade} These he intended to throw in be- 
hind the armored corps which made the 
first bridgehead at the Our. 
Although success or failure would turn 



^ The Panzer Lehr Division carried the same 
organization as other German armored divisions. 
Its name reflected the division's original status as 
a tank training unit. The Fuehrer Begleit Bri- 
gade originally had been a special escort battalion 
for Hitler. It was expanded . for commitment in 
the Ardennes to three panzer grenadier battalions, 
a panzer regiment, an artillery battalion, an anti- 
aircraft battalion, and lesser units. 



FIFTH PANZER ARMY ATTACKS 28TH INFANTRY DIVISION 



175 



on the operations of the two armored 
corps, the Fifth Panzer Army had been 
given a small infantry corps of two divi- 
sions to flesh out its right shoulder. This 
was General der Artillerie Walther 
Lucht's LXVI Corps. In early planning 
there had been some question as to 
whether the Americans in the Schnee 
Eifel should be left to the Fifth or the 
Sixth. Unhappy about this thorn in his 
side, Manteuffel won the assignment of 
the Schnee Eifel heights to his army and 
personally developed a scheme to 
mop up resistance in this sector 
at the earliest possible moment. 
Despite the general dictum that 
defended towns would be bypassed, Man- 
teuffel wanted St. Vith as a blocking 
position and so ordered Lucht to capture 
it. Once through St. Vith the LXVI 
would follow Krueger to Andenne, but 
if things grew rough on the left wing 
Manteuffel intended to switch Lucht's 
corps to the south. 

The Fifth Panzer commander seems to 
have been fairly optimistic, although he 
gave little ear to Hitler's promise of air 
support. He personally rated four of his 
armored divisions as good attack forma- 
tions (the ii6th, 2d, Panzer Lehr, and 
Fuehrer Begleit) , and his panzer corps 
commanders were of his own choosing. 
Krueger and Luettwitz were old hands 
at mechanized warfare, had learned their 
business as commanders of the ist and 2d 
Panzer Divisions, respectively, and had 
fought side by side in Lorraine. Krueger 
was the elder of the two and lacked 
something of Luettwitz' dash. The latter 
was a hard-driving commander, daring 
and tenacious, and had a reputation of 
giving help to neighboring formations 
without debate. 

With this team Manteuffel hoped to 



win a quick penetration and get rolling. 
His first concern would be to gain the 
ridge west of the Our and thus cover the 
armor crossings, for he recognized that 
it would be a difficult stream to bridge. 
He expected that the tactics of predawn 
infiltration would pay off and that his 
assault detachments would have reached 
the crest line, Lascheid-Heinerscheid- 
Roder-Hosingen, before noon on D-day. 
He hoped that the armored debouch- 
ment into the bridgehead would com- 
mence during the early afternoon. Man- 
teuffel had no precise schedule for his 
right wing but after the war was over 
would say that he had hoped for the 
seizure of St. Vith on the first day of the 
attack. One thing clearly worried him: 
would the Seventh Army keep pace and 
cover his left flank to Bastogne? His 
appeal for a mechanized division to be 
given the neighboring Seventh the Fueh- 
rer personally denied.^ 



' The memoirs of the leading personalities in 
the Fifth Panzer Army, as collected in the German 
manuscript histories are detailed and uninhibited. 
They square in a remarkable manner with the 
recital of events in the American records. See 
especially MSS # B-igia, sequel to B-151, Fifth 
Panzer Army, Ardennes Offensive (General der 
Panzertruppen Hasso von Manteuffel); B-321, 
LVIII Panzer Corps in the Ardennes Offensive, 
16 December 1944-11 January 1945 (General der 
Panzertruppen Walter Krueger) ; A-939, The As- 
signment of the XLVII Panzer Corps in the 
Ardennes, 1944-45 (General der Panzertruppen 
Heinrich von Luettwitz) ; B-040, 26th Volks Gren- 
adier Division in the Ardennes Offensive (Gen- 
eralmajoT Heinz Kokott) . See also MSS # A-955, 
Report on the Campaign in Northern France, the 
Rhineland, and the Ardennes (Oberst i. G. Hans- 
Juergen Dingier); B-506, LVIII Panzer Corps 
Artillery, 1 November 1944-1 February 1945 

(Generalmajor Gerhard Triepel) ; A-941, Panzer 
Lehr Division, 1 December 1944-26 January 1945 

(Generalleutnant Fritz Bayerlein) ; A-942, Panzer 
Lehr Division, 15-22 December 1944 (Bayerlein) . 



176 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



The iioth Infantry Sector 
16-18 December 

On the second day of December, a 
staff officer from General Luettwitz' 
XLVII Panzer Corps arrived at the head- 
quarters of the Fifth Panzer Army to re- 
ceive the highly secret word of a great 
counteroffensive in the Ardennes sector. 
At the moment Luettwitz' corps was 
fighting in the bogs and swamps of 
southwest Holland, where the 30 
British Corps and the U.S. 84th 
Division had essayed an attack in the 
sector around Geilenkirchen intended to 
erase the salient retained by the Ger- 
mans on the left flank of the U.S. Ninth 
Army. Earlier the XLVII Panzer Corps 
headquarters had taken part in the Fifth 
Panzer Army counterattack against the 
U.S. Third Army in September, 
had been given new divisions to spear- 
head the brief spoiling attack in late 
October against the British and 
American advance in southwest Hol- 
land, and had returned to the line in 
this sector in mid-November to bolster 
the failing German defenses. Luettwitz 
turned the Geilenkirchen sector over to 
the XVII SS Corps on 6 December and 
moved with his staff to Kyllburg, close to 
the Fifth Panzer Army headquarters, 
where a few trusted officers set feverishly 
to work on plans for Christrose, the code 
name for the coming offensive. 

The mission given Luettwitz con- 
formed to his reputation for drive and 
audacity. The XLVII Panzer Corps, if all 
went well, would cross the Our and Clerf 
Rivers, make a dash "over Bastogne" to 
the Meuse, seize the Meuse River cross- 
ings near Namur by surprise, and drive 
on through Brussels to Antwerp. Two 
things were necessary to success. First, 



Luettwitz could not allow any slackening 
to an infantry pace by frontal attacks 
against strongly defended American 
positions. Second, he had to disregard 
his own flanks, particularly on the south, 
and resolutely refuse to detach any force 
for flank protection until the main body 
was west of the Meuse. The only security 
for the southern flank would have to 
come from an advance in echelon and 
such protection as the less mobile divi- 
sions of the Seventh Army could offer 
on the left. 

Intelligence reports indicated that the 
elements of the U.S. 28th Infantry Divi- 
sion likely to be encountered during the 
first hours of the attack were battle- 
weary, small in number, and widely dis- 
persed. The problem then, as seen by 
ManteufEel and Luettwitz, was not how 
to achieve the initial breakthrough at the 
Our and Clerf Rivers, but rather how to 
employ the armor once these two rivers 
lay behind. The roads in the corps zone 
of attack were narrow, twisting, and cer- 
tain to be muddy; they were particularly 
bad on the axis assigned to Luettwitz' 
southern columns. Just east of Bastogne 
the roads straightened somewhat, but 
good tank-going could not be expected 
until the Marche-Rochefort line was 
reached midway between Bastogne and 
the Meuse. The road center at Bastogne 
presented a special problem, a problem 
recognized in the first German plans. 
Luettwitz and the army commander ran 
at least two map exercises to arrive at a 
solution, but Bastogne lay nineteen air- 
miles west of the German jump-oft 
positions on the Our River and the final 
orders to Luettwitz' divisions were 
couched in very general terms. One thing 
was agreed upon: Bastogne had to be 
taken before the bulk of the XLVII Pan- 



FIFTH PANZER ARMY ATTACKS 28TH INFANTRY DIVISION 



177 



zer Corps moved beyond it to the west.^ 
{Map IV) 

The sector at the Our River in which 
Luettwitz' corps would begin the attack 
was a little over seven miles wide, the 
villages of Dahnen on the north and Stol- 
zembourg on the south serving as bound- 
ary markers. This initial zone was 
roughly equivalent to the American de- 
fensive position manned west of the Our 
by the iioth Infantry, the center regi- 
ment of the 28th Infantry Division, al- 
though the width of the 1 1 oth front was 
about two miles greater than the front 
assigned the panzer corps. The latter 
consisted of three divisions. The 26th 
Volks Grenadier Division (General- 
major Heinz Kokott) already was de- 
ployed in the Eifel sector of the West 
Wall adjacent to the Our where it cov- 
ered not only the XLVII Panzer Corps 
zone but a wide frontage beyond. An old 
line division, the 26th had fought on the 
Eastern Front from July 1941 to the last 
days of September 1944, winning many 
decorations but little rest. Finally, after 
a grueling battle in the Baranow- War- 
saw sector the division was relieved for 
the first time since the beginning of the 
Russian campaign and brought back to 
Poznah, there receiving the title of 
Volks Grenadier (regarded as somewhat 
less than an honor by the survivors of the 
old regular army 26th Infantry Divi- 
sion) . 

To the surprise of the division staff 
the task of re-equipping and replenishing 
the 26th went amazingly fast for the be- 
ginning of the sixth year of the war. Re- 
placements, mostly from the Navy, were 

= MSS # A-939 (Luettwitz); A-940, XLVII 
Panzer Corps in the Ardennes Offensive (Luett- 
witz); A-941 (Bayerlein); A-94a (Bayerlein). For 
the corps plans, see KTB: Christrose. 



whipped into shape by the "Old 26th," 
and first-rate equipment replaced that 
lost in the east. The division com- 
mander, officers, and noncoms were 
veterans; training throughout the 
division was reported as adequate. 
Ration strength was more than 17,000, 
and forty-two 75-mm. antitank guns 
supplemented the weapons organic 
to the conventional Volks Grena- 
dier division. Like all such units, how- 
ever, the 26th was geared to foot power 
and horsepower; there were 5,000 horses 
in the division, including a few of the 
tough "winterized" Russian breed. The 
new mission given General Kokott was 
this: the 26th would force the crossings 
at the Our and Clerf Rivers on the left 
of the corps, hold open for the armor, 
then follow the more mobile panzer 
units to Bastogne. At that crucial point 
the infantry had to take Bastogne as 
quickly as possible, with or without the 
help of the armored divisions. Once this 
barrier was passed the 26th would be 
responsible for covering the left flank of 
the corps while the armored divisions 
made the Meuse crossings. 

The initial penetration by the corps' 
right was charged to the armored infan- 
try of the famous 2d Panzer Division 
(Colonel Meinrad von Lauchert) , a unit 
that had fought the Allies all the way 
from Normandy back to the German 
frontier. When the 2d Panzer Division 
was relieved at the end of September its 
tanks were gone, but there remained a 
large cadre of veterans who had escaped 
to the West Wall on foot. In the weeks 
that followed, the division rested and 
re-formed in the Bitburg-Wittlich area, 
its units moving constantly to escape 
Allied observation. Replacements, gen- 
erally better than the average, were 



178 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



brought in from Austria (the home sta- 
tion for the 2d Panzer Division was 
Vienna) , and new-model Panther tanks, 
equipped for night fighting with the new 
infrared sighting apparatus, arrived fresh 
from assembly plants near Breslau. On 
the eve of commitment the two tank bat- 
talions were about full strength, with 27 
Mark IV's, 58 Panthers, and 48 armored 
assault guns in the division tank parks. 
Sufficient trucks were available to motor- 
ize most of the division, but there was a 
shortage of tracked cross-country vehi- 
cles. One battalion of armored infantry 
was given bicycles, and would move so 
slowly through the mud and over the 
hills that its function during the drive 
to the west was simply that of a replace- 
ment battalion, feeding into the more 
mobile units up ahead. 

Once the 2d Panzer Division had 
thrown a bridge across the Our at Das- 
burg and the 26th Volks Grenadier Divi- 
sion had put a bridge in at Gemiind, 
the well-known Panzer Lehr Division 
would be ready to roll, advancing behind 
the two forward divisions until the corps 
had cleared the Clerf River, then push- 
ing ahead of the infantry on the corps 
left in the race to Bastogne. The Panzer 
Lehr (Generalleutnant Fritz Bayerlein) 
was one of the divisions earmarked in 
November for use in the Ardennes coun- 
teroffensive, but the American offensive 
in Lorraine and Alsace had forced OKW 
to release the Panzer Lehr from its posi- 
tion in the strategic reserve. Hitler had 
committed Bayerlein's tanks in an abor- 
tive counterattack designed to roll up the 
exposed flank of the American Third 
Army on the Saar.* This Panzer Lehr 
thrust failed, and at the beginning of 



'Cole, The Lorraine Campaign, pp. 464-71. 



December Bayerlein's command was 
brought north to the Eifel district for an 
emergency attempt at refitting. Losses in 
equipment had been particularly heavy. 
Tanks, tank destroyers, and guns were 
rushed up from the depots at Mayen, but 
on 15 December the two panzer grena- 
dier regiments were still missing 60 per- 
cent of their regular rifle strength and 
the panzer regiment had ready only one 
of its two battalions (with 27 Mark IV's 
and 30 Panthers) . To compensate for 
the armored weakness of the battered 
division, two battalions of armored tank 
destroyers and an assault gun brigade 
were given Bayerlein just before the 
attack to the west began. The best troops 
and newest equipment were placed in 
the division reconnaissance battalion, 
heavily reinforced, which was slated to 
join the reconnaissance battalion of the 
26th Volks Grenadier Division in spear- 
heading the advance once the Clerf 
River had been crossed. 

With three divisions, and added corps 
troops, the XLVII Panzer Corps pos- 
sessed a considerable amount of shock 
and fire power. Manteuffel allotted 
Luettwitz the i^th Volks Werfer Bri- 
gade (108 pieces) , the y66th Volks Artil- 
lery Corps (76 pieces) , the 600th Army 
Engineer Battalion, and the i82d Flak 
Regiment, all motorized. Each division 
was reinforced with additional self-pro- 
pelled assault guns or tank destroyers and 
each had a full complement of divisional 
artillery (four battalions for the infantry 
division and three motorized battalions 
in the armored divisions) . Finally Luett- 
witz was promised two 60-ton bridges 
—capable of carrying his Panthers— and 
very considerable support from the 
Luftwaffe. Both Luettwitz and Manteu- 
ffel had been "promised" air support 



FIFTH PANZER ARMY ATTACKS 28TH INFANTRY DIVISION 



179 



on numerous occasions before; so it is 
questionable whether either of them ex- 
pected the Luftwaffe to make good. 
Luettwitz, at least, pinned his faith on 
bad flying weather, night operations, and 
the large number of flak guns dispersed 
through his columns. 

The sector designated for the XLVII 
Panzer Corps breakthrough was held by 
the ist and 3d Battalions of the 1 10th 
Infantry (28th Infantry Division) , com- 
manded by Col. Hurley E. Fuller. This 
regiment formed the division center, 
with the 1 12th Infantry on the north and 
the 109th Infantry aligned to the south. 
Battered and fatigued by weary, bloody 
fighting in the Hiirtgen Forest, the 28th 
Division came into the quiet front on 
the Our during mid-November.^ During 
the division attack of 2-15 November 
in the Schmidt- Vossenack sector the 28th 
had taken 6,184 casualties. The task of 
rebuilding the rifle companies, repair- 
ing battle damage, and training replace- 
ments was of necessity a slow one. But 
by the middle of December the iioth 
Infantry had almost a full roster— a roster 
numbering many men and some officers 
who yet had to see their first action. 
The 109th and 1 12th were in like status. 

Fuller had only two battalions at his 
disposal because the 2d Battalion, lo- 
cated at Donnange, constituted the di- 
vision reserve. Anything even remotely 
resembling a continuous line across the 
9- to lo-mile regimental front was be- 
yond the strength of the 1st and 
3d Battalions. As a substitute, a system of 
village strongpoints— each manned in 



" The official U.S. Army history describes this 
fighting by the 28th Infantry Division as "one of 
the most costly division actions in the whole o£ 
World War II." MacDonald, The Siegfried Line 
Campaign, p. 373. 



about rifle company strength— was set up 
on the ridge line separating the Our and 
Clerf Rivers, which here is traced by the 
excellent north-south highway connect- 
ing St. Vith and Diekirch. This high- 
way (known to the Americans as the 
Skyline Drive) and the garrison line 
paralleled the Our at a distance of one 
and a half to two and a half miles. Each 
battalion was responsible for five out- 
posts along the west bank of the Our, 
but these vantage points were occupied 
only during daylight hours and then in 
squad strength. At night the strip be- 
tween the ridge and the river became 
a no man's land where German and 
American patrols stalked one another. 
Even in daytime it was possible for Ger- 
man patrols to move about on the west 
bank, using the cover provided by the 
deep, wooded draws. 

The Our, in many places, was no more 
than forty feet wide and easily fordable, 
but the roads leading to the river made 
circuitous and abrupt descent as they 
neared its banks. In the i loth zone four 
roads ran from the German border at 
the Our, up and over the Skyline 
Drive, and down to the Clerf. The 
American strongpoints were therefore 
located with an eye to blocking these 
entry ways while at the same time de- 
fending the lateral ridge road which con- 
nected the iioth with its neighboring 
regiments and provided the main artery 
sustaining the entire division front. The 
northernmost of the four roads had a 
good all-weather surface, was the only 
main through road running east to west 
through the area, and gave direct access 
to Clerf and Bastogne. The Germans 
planned to connect this route to their 
own supply lines by bridging the Our 
at Dasburg. The remaining roads 



180 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



through the iioth sector normally were 
poor but were made worse by the rains 
prior to 16 December; the 26th Folks 
Grenadier Division intended to enter 
the two southernmost roads by throwing 
a bridge across at Gemiind." 

The Americans had identified the 
26th long since as the unit garrisoning 
the West Wall bunkers on the German 
bank. The presence of two panzer units 
on the 110th Infantry front was not sus- 
pected. General Cota and the 28th Divi- 
sion Staff were prepared for some kind of 
German effort west of the Our, but the 
intelligence coming down from higher 
headquarters pointed only to the possi- 
bility of a limited German attack against 
the 109th Infantry and the American 
communications running north from 
Luxembourg City. There was no hint 
from any source that the enemy was 
about to strike squarely into the center 
of the 28th Division and in over- 
whelming array. 

In the late afternoon of 15 December 
General Luettwitz gathered his division 
commanders in the XLVII Panzer Corps 
forward headquarters at Ringhuscheid 



° The American sources for the initial phase of 
the defense in this sector are unusually complete. 
The 28th Division after action report shows the 
lines of withdrawal and is supplemented in detail 
by the 28th Division G-3 journal and telephone 
file. The 109th Infantry after action report and 
journal are intact and useful. (See also The Old 
Gray Mare of the lo^th Infantry Regiment (Augs- 
burg. 1953.)) The 110 Infantry has not only a 
regimental after action report but one for each 
of its battalions; however the iioth journal is 
missing for the period prior to 24 December 1944. 
The 112th Infantry S-2 and S-3 journals have 
numerous overlays showing the action. Combat 
interviews provide good coverage for most of the 
major actions by the 28th Division. For the 
German sources see note 2, above. See also The 
Rise and Fall of the 2d Panzer Division (MS) 
edited by TUSA, 1 PW, May 1945; MS # P-032d 
(Generalmajor Hans Kokott) . 



for final instructions and introduction to 
the new commander of the 2d Panzer 
Division, Colonel von Lauchert, who had 
been selected at the last moment by the 
Fifth Panzer Army leader to replace an 
incumbent who was not an experienced 
tanker. Lauchert arrived too late to 
meet all of his regimental commanders, 
but the 2d Panzer, like the rest of the 
corps, was already in position to move 
the moment darkness came. Apprehen- 
sive lest the Americans be prematurely 
warned, Army Group B had for- 
bidden the movement of any troops 
across the Our in advance of the opening 
barrage set for 0530 on 16 December. 
Conforming to these instructions 
the 2d Panzer Division moved its assault 
columns to Dasburg during the night 
of 15-16 December but halted in as- 
sembly areas east of the river. 

On the corps left, however, General 
Kokott and the 26th Volks Grenadier 
Division jumped the gun. Kokott's 
screening regiment, the ySth, had been 
in the habit of throwing out an outpost 
line west of the Our from nightfall till 
dawn. On the evening of 15 December 
the outpost troops, considerably rein- 
forced, crossed to the west bank as usual 
and moved cautiously forward. About 
0300 engineers manning pneumatic rub- 
ber boats began ferrying the 8o-man 
assault companies and heavy infantry 
weapons across the river. As each com- 
pany debarked it marched inland to the 
line of departure which the outpost force 
now held close to the American gar- 
rison points. The yyth Regiment formed 
on the right near Hosingen and the 39th, 
echeloned to the left and rear, assembled 
in the woods north of Wahlhausen. 
With surprise almost certainly assured 
and the knowledge that the Americans 



FIFTH PANZER ARMY ATTACKS 28TH INFANTRY DIVISION 



181 



had no cohesive line of defense, General 
Kokott had ordered the jjth Regiment 
to circle north of Hosingen and head 
straight for the Clerf bridges at Drauf- 
felt, while the ^^th cut cross-country, 
avoiding the villages on the western side 
of the ridge line, and seized the road 
junction and bridges at Wilwerwiltz on 
the Clerf . The eye of the division com- 
mander would be on the assault echelons 
of his right wing regiment, for they 
would make the main effort to reach 
the Clerf. The timetable for the 26th 
Volks Grenadier Division advance called 
for both its attacking regiments to 
reach the Clerf River by nightfall of 
the first day. Adherence to this schedule 
meant that the villages garrisoned by 
the American companies would have 
to be avoided or captured quickly. 

The units of the 110th Infantry were 
disposed as follows to face three full 
German divisions. On the left of the 
regimental zone, the 1st Battalion (Lt. 
Col. Donald Paul) held the intersection 
of the Skyline Drive and the Dasburg- 
Bastogne main highway at Marnach, em- 
ploying Company B and a platoon from 
the 630th Tank Destroyer Battalion. To 
the southwest. Company C and the reg- 
imental cannon company were deployed 
in and around Munshausen, guarding 
the side road which cut cross-country 
from Marnach to Drauffelt. Company A, 
at Heinerscheid, was on the extreme left 
flank of the 110th and so lay outside 
the path of the XLVII Panzer Corps 
attack, as did Company D at Grind- 
hausen. The 3d Battalion (Maj. Harold 
F. Milton) formed the regimental right, 
with its companies on both sides of the 
ridge line. Company K, reinforced by 
Company B, 103d Engineer Combat Bat- 
talion, garrisoned Hosingen, a village on 



the Skyline Drive overlooking two of 
the four roads which wound from the 
Our up over the ridge. To the south 
Company I held Weiler-les-Putscheid, a 
hamlet in a knot of trails and byroads 
on the forward slopes of the ridge line. 
The 110th Antitank Company was in 
Hoscheid just to the west. Both of these 
positions lay adjacent to the prospective 
boundary between the XLVII and 
LXXXV Corps. West of the ridge. 
Company L in Holzthum and the head- 
quarters company and Company M in 
Consthum barred a direct approach to 
the Clerf crossing site at Wilwerwiltz. 
Behind the Clerf River and to the west 
of the regimental command post in the 
town of Clerf the 2d Battalion (Lt. Col. 
Ross C. Henbest) lay in divisional re- 
serve. Separated of necessity by the width 
of the front and the requirements of 
some depth in the defenses athwart the 
east- west roads, the units of the iioth 
could offer little reciprocal support a- 
gainst an enemy attacking in any force. 

The massed guns and Werfers of 
the XLVII Panzer Corps which roared 
out at 0530 on 16 December gave the 
Americans their first warning. But the 
tactical effect of this artillery prepara- 
tion was considerably less than the 
German planners had anticipated. The 
telephone wires connecting the Amer- 
ican-held villages were shot out in the 
first few minutes and Fuller could not 
reach any of his battalions; artillery 
radios, however, continued to function. 
The German barrage, with a limited 
number of rounds at the guns, dwindled 
away after about half an hour to sporadic 
salvos and stray single shots, leaving the 
advancing infantry without cover while 
they were still short of the American 
positions. 



182 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



The first word of the approaching 
enemy reached the iioth Infantry head- 
quarters at Clerf shortly after 06 1 5. Com- 
pany L, on the western side of the ridge 
at Holzthum, reported figures in the 
half-light but, peering through the 
ground fog, which clung all along the 
division front, could not be sure whether 
they were American troops passing 
through the area or the enemy. In fact, 
detachments of the ^^th Regiment had 
crossed the Skyline Drive unobserved 
and were moving in to surprise Holz- 
thum. To some extent, then, Kokott's 
decision in favor of premature assembly 
west of the Our had gained ground for 
the 26th. Fuller, however, was able to 
get a warning message through to the 
28th Division command post about 0900. 

As the morning passed the small Ger- 
man detachments west of the ridge in- 
creased in strength. Before noon five 
separate assaults had been made at Cons- 
thum, but all were beaten off by small 
arms, .50-caliber, and artillery fire. Fin- 
ally the Germans took the village, only 
to be driven out again. A German at- 
tempt to cut the road between Cons- 
thum and Holzthum failed when Capt. 
Norman G. Maurer, S-3 of the 3d Bat- 
talion, leading a sortie of twenty men, 
surprised the enemy and drove him 
back with very heavy casualties. Be- 
tween Holzthum and Buchholz, Battery 
C of the 109th Field Artillery was hit 
hard but held its positions, firing the 
105-mm. howitzers with one- and two- 
second fuzes. The battery commander 
and fifteen gunners were casualties of 
the close-range fight before help arrived. 
This came late in the morning, after the 
28th Division commander, General Cota, 
ordered a tank platoon from the 707th 
Tank Battalion forward to clear the Ger- 



man infantry out of the Battery C area. 

The 26th Volks Grenadier Division 
poured more troops into the 3d Bat- 
talion sector, compressing the American 
companies in the village positions. At 
the crossroads village of Hosingen atop 
the Skyline Drive, the leading detach- 
ments of the yyth swung to the north, 
cutting the road but moving on in the 
direction of the Clerf. The 2d Battlion 
of the yyth, under the cover provided 
by German artillery, drove in to the 
south edge of Hosingen, contrary to 
orders, and there grappled in house-to- 
house fighting with Company D and 
Company B, 103d Engineer Battalion. 
Meanwhile the }9th Regiment, eche- 
loned to the left of the jyth, ran into 
a snag. The 1st Platoon of Company 
I had been deployed along the Wahl- 
hausen road on the forward slope of the 
ridge, covering an observation post. 
From this point the American artil- 
lery observers could see the enemy as- 
sembling in the woods just to the 
north. Accurately adjusted fire held the 
enemy battalion at bay and forced it 
to call on neighboring battalions, at- 
tacking Weiler, to help outflank the 
thin infantry line on the Wahlhausen 
road. 

The defenders at Weiler would not 
be easily pushed aside. Company I (mi- 
nus the platoon at Wahlhausen) , a sec- 
tion of 81 -mm. mortars, and an antitank 
platoon repelled wave after wave of at- 
tacking German infantry. When the mor- 
tar crews and antitank platoon had used 
all their ammunition they joined the 
infantry in the center of the village and 
fought as riflemen. Twice during the 
morning the attackers were allowed to 
send in aid men and remove their 
wounded. At 1330 the enemy ceased 



FIFTH PANZER ARMY ATTACKS 28TH INFANTRY DIVISION 



183 




German Troops Advancing Past Abandoned American Equipment 



fire and sent forward a white flag, with 
an oflier for the Americans to surrender. 
When this was refused the Germans sys- 
tematically set to work to surround the 
village; by dark they had ringed Weiler. 

In the ist Battalion zone to the north 
the advance detachments of the 2d Pan- 
zer Division moved straight for Marnach, 
attempting with one quick blow to clear 
the Americans obstructing the through 
road from Dasburg to ClerfJ While the 
German engineers labored at the Das- 
burg site to bring their heavy tank 

' The road from Dasburg through Clerf is 
marked on the OB WEST operations map by a 
purple penciled line as far as Bastogne. 



bridging equipment down to the river, 
the 28th Panzer Engineer Battalion and 
the 2d Battalion, ^o^th Panzer Gren- 
adier Regiment, crossed the Our in rub- 
ber boats and moved west through the 
predawn darkness. The advance was de- 
layed somewhat when the grenadiers 
marched into an American mine field, 
but by 0800 the leading Germans had 
reached Marnach. Company B and a pla- 
toon of the 630th Tank Destroyer Bat- 
talion were well entrenched there and 
gave the Germans a warm reception, al- 
though themselves under fire from bat- 
teries east of the Our. Minus his heavy 
weapons, the enemy failed to knock the 



184 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



Marnach garrison out of the way, but 
an hour later Company B radioed that 
three hundred Germans were northwest 
and southwest of Marnach. The ist Bat- 
talion commander had already ordered 
Company A, located three miles farther 
north on the Skyline Drive at Heiner- 
sCheid, to send a patrol south and make 
contact with Company B. In midmorn- 
ing Paul ordered Company C to march 
north from Munshausen, leaving the can- 
non company there, and counterattack 
the Germans in the Company B area. 

By this time, however, the advance 
infantry detachments of the 2d Panzer 
Division were not only involved in a 
battle to knock out Marnach but were 
pushing past the village en route to 
Clerf. The 24-man patrol from Com- 
pany A ran into the German flank at 
Fishbach, about 1120, and had to with- 
draw under intense fire. Two hours later 
the enemy struck at Company A, ap- 
parently an attempt to clear the north- 
south Skyline Drive, but artillery fire 
beat him off. In the meantime the Com- 
pany C advance north toward Marnach 
also ran into trouble: persistent small 
arms fire forced the infantry to leave 
the road and move slowly across country. 
Tanks, ordered up from the division re- 
serve, had not yet arrived. In Marnach 
the hard-beset garrison fought on, now 
under the command of the battalion ex- 
ecutive officer, Capt. J. H. Burns, who 
had taken over when the company com- 
mander was wounded. 

Back to the west, in the 28th Division 
command post at Wiltz, General Cota 
took what steps he could to help the 
1 lotii Infantry. The bulk of his very 
limited reserve consisted of the 2d Bat- 
talion, 110th Infantry, and the 707th 
Tank Battalion. By the middle of the 



morning it was apparent that the VIII 
Corps was under attack all along the 
front and that the 28th Division would 
have to make out with what it had. 
Radio communication, which was 
functioning fairly well, showed that the 
division center was most endangered. 
About 1000, therefore. General Cota 
ordered Companies A and B of the 707th 
Tank Battalion to reinforce the 110th 
Infantry, with the intention of clearing 
up the deepest enemy penetrations and 
sweeping the ridge road clear. Although 
Fuller pled for the return of the 2d Bat- 
talion to his regiment, Cota refused to 
release this last division reserve. 

Shortly before noon a platoon of Com- 
pany B's tanks reached the hard-pressed 
field artillery battery near Buchholz and 
reported the situation in hand.* But the 
enemy here represented only the 
probing forefinger of the main attack. 
Company B moved east to aid the 3d 
Battalion, and Company A, less a platoon 
in mobile reserve at Clerf, moved to the 
northern sector. At nearly every point 
the American tanks would have to fight 
their way down the roads to reach the 
infantry holding the villages. To the 
east, at Dasburg, the German engineers 
were straining to finish the tank bridge 
which would bring the German armor 
into play. Time was running out for 
the American companies: ammunition 



*An Mi6 halt-track from the 447th Antiaircraft 
Artillery (Automatic Weapons) Battalion was re- 
sponsible for the fact that this battery was still 
in position. Early that morning a German com- 
pany had marched up to a crossroads where the 
half-track was standing, apparently intending to 
deploy for an attack against the battery. Seeing 
the vehicle, the enemy column paused. One of 
the crew thought fast and waved the Germans 
forward in friendly fashion. When the .50-caliber 
machine guns on the half-tracks ceased fire nearly 
one hundred German dead were counted. 



FIFTH PANZER ARMY ATTACKS 28TH INFANTRY DIVISION 185 



was low and the short winter day was 
drawing to a close— with the likelihood 
that the small garrisons would be over- 
whelmed in the darkness by sheer weight 
of numbers. 

On the Wahlhausen road the 3d Bat- 
talion observation post, defended by the 
Company I platoon, called for ammuni- 
tion and was told that tanks were being 
sent with resupply. At Weiler the rest 
of the company and the antitank platoon, 
their supply of ammunition dwindling, 
also awaited the tanks. For some reason 
the tank platoon sent from the 707th 
had not reached the Company I area 
when night fell. About 1830 troops at 
the battalion observation post reported 
that enemy vehicles were attacking 
with multiple 20-mm. guns and asked 
for American artillery fire on their own 
positions. This was the end. Only one 
man escaped. At Weiler the Americans, 
with only a few rounds left, were com- 
pletely surrounded and decided to fight 
their way out. They divided into two 
groups and headed west through the 
enemy lines. 

On the west slopes o£ the ridge a pla- 
toon of medium tanks was committed 
early in the afternoon to drive the Ger- 
mans off the side road linking Holzthum 
and Consthum. Co-ordination between 
small packets of infantry and armor, 
hard at best, was made most difficult by 
this kind of piecemeal commitment. The 
tankers had been told that there were 
no friendly troops on the road and just 
outside Holzthum knocked out an anti- 
tank gun placed there by Company I. 
After some delay, while the tank platoon 
and the infantry identified themselves, 
the tanks rolled south to the 3d Bat- 
talion headquarters at Consthum. At 
Hosingen, on the ridge road, Company 



D and Company B were fighting Ger- 
man infantry hand to hand inside the 
village. In response to their call for re- 
inforcement and ammunition four tanks 
fought their way through the German 
infantry along the Skyline Drive, arriv- 
ing in Hosingen about 2200— but with no 
rifle ammunition. 

In the 1st Battalion sector, late in the 
afternoon, two tank platoons arrived in 
Munshausen to support Company C, al- 
ready on its way north to relieve Com- 
pany B in Marnach. Company C had 
been driven off the road, and the tanks, 
missing the infantry entirely, rolled into 
Marnach. One tank platoon remained 
there to bolster the defense, while the 
other turned back to the south, picked 
up Company C, and, on orders, 
returned with the infantry to Mun- 
shausen. About dusk the Marnach gar- 
rison radioed that half-tracks could be 
heard moving toward the village. This 
was the last word from Marnach. Late 
in the afternoon. Colonel Fuller had 
ordered Company D, a platoon of heavy 
machine guns, and a provisional rifle 
company hastily assembled from men on 
pass in Clerf, to move to Reuler and 
protect Battery B of the 109th Field Ar- 
tillery Battalion, then firing in support 
of the troops in Marnach and very hard 
pressed by the enemy. These reinforce- 
ments arrived at Reuler in time to take 
a hand against the Germans pouring 
past Marnach toward Clerf and its 
bridges. But Battery A of the battalion 
was swept up by the Germans who had 
bypassed the left wing anchor of the 
regiment at Heinerscheid. 

During most of this first day of at- 
tack the German infantry had fought 
west of the Our without heavy weapons, 
although the bulk of two regiments from 



186 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



both the 26th Volks Grenadier Di- 
vision and the 2d Panzer Division had 
crossed the river and taken some part 
in the fight. Shortly before dark the 60- 
ton bridges were completed at Gemiind 
and Dasburg (inexperienced engineers 
and the difficulties attendant on moving 
the heavy structures down to the river 
bed had slowed construction markedly) , 
and the German tanks and assault guns 
moved across to give the coup de grace 
to the villages still defended by the 1 loth 
Infantry. On the left the 26th Volks 
Grenadier Division finally achieved con- 
tact with the ^th Parachute Division, 
which had been advancing cautiously 
along the boundary between the 109th 
and iioth Infantry and had done noth- 
ing to help Kokott's southern regi- 
ment, the ^9th. With an open left flank 
and under artillery fire called down by 
the American observation post on the 
Wahlhausen road, the j^th swerved from 
the westward axis of attack and became 
involved at Weiler, contrary to orders. 
There the American tank platoon from 
Company B, 707th Tank Battalion, hit 
into the German flank while attempt- 
ing to reach Weiler and, it would appear, 
caused disorganization and confusion. 
Kokott's right, the 77th Regiment, 
pushed elements beyond Hosingen (ac- 
tually moving between the 1st and 3d 
Battalions of the iioth Infantry), but 
these detachments, stopped by the 
American 105-mm. howitzers and the 
tank platoon near Buchholz, again had 
to side-step in the drive to the Clerf. 
Back at Hosingen the attempt to break 
American resistance had won an early 
lodgment in the south edge of the vil- 
lage, but had achieved no more. The 
26th Volks Grenadier Division needed 
Hosingen badly. Without it the western 



exit road from the Gemiind bridge was 
hopelessly blocked; through Hosingen 
ran the main divisional supply route to 
the Clerf. Just before dark, therefore, 
Kokott threw a part of his replacement 
training battalion into the action; these 
fresh troops succeeded in forcing their 
way into the north edge of the village, al- 
though with heavy losses. 

A whole series of monkey wrenches 
had been thrown into the well-oiled 
machinery of the 26th Volks Grena- 
dier Division. The American infantry 
had made excellent use of the ground 
and had held their positions, refusing 
to buckle under the weight of numbers. 
The j^th Regiment had got involved in 
local actions and been diverted from 
the westward axis— sustaining high los- 
ses in the bargain. The 77th had been 
unable to win a quick decision at Ho- 
singen. Now, at the end of the day, the 
armored reconnaissance battalion of the 
Panzer Lehr Division found itself craw- 
ling rather than racing west from the 
Gemiind bridge. The road to Hosingen 
was muddy and winding; but worse, 
at the western exit of the bridge an 
American abatis and a series of bomb 
craters blocked the flow of traffic. A 
few light tanks and self-propelled guns 
got forward late in the evening, but the 
bulk of the Panzer Lehr reconnaissance 
battalion remained backed up at the 
bridge. 

Kokott's infantry would have to carry 
the battle through the night. The j^th 
regrouped and turned to assault Holz- 
thum and Consthum in force. The 77th 
marched toward Drauffelt on the Clerf 
River, leaving the replacement training 
battalion to continue the fight at Hosin- 
gen. Kokott's reserve regiment, the 78th, 
crossed the Our at dusk and moved for- 



FIFTH PANZER ARMY ATTACKS 28TH INFANTRY DIVISION 



187 



ward between the two assault regiments. 
On the right its ist Battalion marched 
on Hosingen, bringing flame throwers 
and self-propelled guns to blast the 
Americans from the village; the 2d Bat- 
talion moved straight for the Clerf River, 
aiming at control of the crossings and 
road net at Wilwerwiltz. The 26th Volks 
Grenadier Division was across the Our 
River in force but had failed to gain 
its first-day objective, control of the Clerf 
River crossings. The German infantry 
would have to fight step by step; the 
hope of a quick breakthrough had 
proven illusory. 

The story in the 2d Panzer Division 
zone was the same. There the infantry 
driving toward the town of Clerf had 
been stopped short of their objective. 
Marnach remained in American hands, 
even after the Dasburg bridge was com- 
pleted and the leading tanks of the ^d 
Panzer Regiment entered the fight. The 
^o^th Regiment had suffered severely at 
American hands: the regimental com- 
mander was a casualty and one battalion 
had been badly scattered during the 
piecemeal counterattacks by the Ameri- 
can tank platoons. 

General Luettwitz was none too 
pleased with the progress made by his 
two attack divisions on this first day. 
But the credit side of the ledger showed 
a few entries. The two heavy tank bridges 
were in, the Americans obviously were 
weakening, and the 2d Panzer Divi- 
sion had been able to move its tanks 
forward on the relatively good road in 
the northern part of the corps zone. 
Luettwitz concluded that the Clerf River 
now would be crossed not later than 
the evening of the second day. 

Across the lines General Cota had 
little reason to expect that the iioth 



Infantry could continue to delay the 
German attack at the 28th Division cen- 
ter as it had this first day. But at dark 
he ordered his regimental commanders 
to hold their positions "at all costs" and 
began preparations to commit his re- 
maining reserves to restore the situation 
in the Marnach sector and block the 
road to Clerf. This seemed to be the 
most endangered sector of the whole 
division front, for here the 2d Panzer 
Division had been identified and here 
was the main hard-surface road to 
Bastogne. As yet, however, the Americans 
had no way of knowing that the bulk 
of the 2d Panzer Division actually was 
moving down the road to Clerf or that 
a counterattack would collide with any 
such German force. 

Meanwhile, General Middleton, the 
VIII Corps commander, issued a hold- 
fast order to all his troops. All VIII Corps 
units were to hold their positions until 
they were "completely untenable," and 
in no event would they fall back beyond 
a specified final defense line. In the 
110th Infantry sector this line ran 
through Lieler and Buchholz to Lellin- 
gen. It was breached at midnight when 
tanks and self-propelled guns of the 
^d Panzer Regiment entered Marnach. 

General Cota still had in hand a re- 
serve on the night of the 16th, but it 
was the last reserve of the 28th Division. 
It consisted of the 2d Battalion, iioth 
Infantry, at Donnange and the light tank 
company of the 707th Tank Battalion, 
which was located at Weiswampach be- 
hind the division north flank in support 
of the 112th Infantry. By the late 
evening the picture as seen at the 
division command post had cleared 
to this extent: the two flank regiments, 
the 109th and 112th, had lost rela- 



188 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



lively little ground; the iioth was very 
hard pressed; and German tanks were 
moving along the main road to Bastogne 
by way of Marnach. At 2100, therefore, 
General Cota turned the reserve rifle bat- 
talion back to the 1 10th Infantry, minus 
Company G which was moved to Wiltz to 
defend the division command post, and 
agreed with Colonel Fuller's proposal 
that the battalion be used in an attack 
eastward to restore American control at 
Marnach. At the same time the light tank 
company in the 1 12th area was alerted by 
division headquarters for an attack south 
along the Skyline Drive, also directed to- 
ward Marnach, as soon as daylight came. 
To complete the concentration against 
the enemy in or around Marnach, Col- 
onel Fuller ordered the medium tank 
platoon in Munshausen to attack to the 
northeast with a rifle platoon from Com- 
pany C. When Fuller heard of the light 
tanks, he ordered Colonel Henbest to 
delay the 2d Battalion attack next morn- 
ing until the incoming tank detachment 
was ready to attack on the Skyline Drive. 

There was still hope on the morning 
of 1*7 December that at least one platoon 
from Company B was holding on in 
Marnach. About 0*730 the two rifle com- 
panies of the 2d Battalion jumped oft 
at the ridge east of Clerf. In a matter 
of minutes the left company ran into a 
strong German skirmish line, deployed 
at the edge of a wood, which was sup- 
ported by tanks and self-propelled artil- 
lery firing from around Marnach. The 
battalion commander ordered his right 
company down to block the paved road 
from Marnach to Clerf, but this road 
was in the hands of the 2d Panzer Divi- 
sion, whose tanks were rolling toward 
the Clerf bridges. The American artil- 
lery, earlier emplaced behind the left 



wing of the iioth, had been overrun or 
forced to displace. Only one battery of 
the 109th Field Artillery Battalion was 
firing during the morning and it ran 
low on ammunition. This battery was 
driven from Buchholz with the loss of 
half its howitzers. By noon the 2d Bat- 
talion, helpless against massed tanks and 
without artillery support, was held in 
check along the ridge running southwest 
from Urspelt to the Clerf road, only a 
thousand yards from its line of depar- 
ture. 

The southern prong of the three- 
pronged counterattack to shut off the 
German armored drive moving through 
Marnach toward Clerf also was out- 
gunned and outnumbered but did reach 
Marnach, only to report that no friendly 
infantry could be found. About 1000 the 
small tank-infantry team was allowed to 
return to its original position at Muns- 
hausen, and Fuller then ordered the 
tank platoon to fight its way to Clerf 
and help defend the town. These two 
attacks from west and south had made no 
headway but were not too costly. 

The attack by the light tank company 
of the '/o'/th along the Skyline Drive was 
disastrous. About 0720 the company 
crossed into the iioth Infantry zone, 
where the ground rose away from the 
highway and forced the tanks to advance 
in column on the road. As the column 
emerged from the village of Heiner- 
scheid, concealed high-velocity guns 
opened on the skimpily armored light 
tanks, picking them off like clay pipes 
in a shooting gallery. Eight tanks were 
knocked out by the enemy gunners and 
in the confusion three more fell prey to 
bazooka fire. The entire action lasted 
ten minutes. Two of the American tanks 
turned back to Heinerscheid, only to be 



FIFTH PANZER ARMY ATTACKS 28TH INFANTRY DIVISION 



189 



destroyed during the German assault 
later in the day. The company com- 
mander withdrew the remaining five 
tanks on a side road and reached Urspelt, 
taking position near the 2d Battalion 
command post.* 

The American pincers action had 
failed to constrict at Mamach. Yet there 
was still an opportunity to retard the 
2d Panzer march along the road to 
Bastogne. Less than two miles west of 
Marnach lay the Clerf River and the 
town of Clerf, the latter the head- 



"MS # A-940 (Luettwitz). The ']0^th Tank 
Battalion has a detailed unit journal in narrative 
form. 



quarters of the 1 10th Infantry. The town 
itself lies in a horseshoe bend of the 
river. From town and river rise wooded 
and precipitous slopes, particularly sharp 
and difficult to the east. Descent to 
the town and its bridges is made on 
this side by two winding roads. The 
main paved road from Marnach ap- 
proaches Clerf through a shallow draw, 
passing just to the south of the little 
village of Reuler, which perches on 
the high ground overlooking the river 
bend. This road makes a twisted and 
tortuous descent to the valley floor, 
finally crossing the river at the south- 
eastern edge of the town and pro- 



Clerf 



190 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



ceeding through narrow streets until it 
emerges on the north. A secondary road, 
on the right of the through highway to 
Bastogne, approaches Clerf from the 
hamlet of Urspelt. A sharp hairpin turn 
breaks the descent; then the road crosses 
the river into the northern edge of Clerf 
near the railroad station and enters the 
main highway. In sum, the way through 
Clerf would be none too easy for an 
armored division.^* 

Colonel Fuller's command post was in 
a hotel only a few yards from the north 
bridge. Across town the regimental head- 
quarters company was billeted in an 
ancient chateau, now partially modern- 
ized but retaining the heavy stone walls 
behind which, since the twelfth century, 
fighting men had dominated the river 
bend and controlled the main bridge 
site. In the late evening of 16 December 
German artillery began to range into 
Clerf, apparently covering the advance 
of patrols from Marnach. About 0345 
the German artillery quieted. Small de- 
tachments with burp guns now crept 
down through the dark and engaged the 
troops in and around the chateau. At 
dawn a single tank or self-propelled gun 
began firing from the curving road to 
the south; more enemy infantry joined 
the fire fight near the chateau as the 
morning advanced. 

Then rolling down the Marnach road 
came the German advance guard, per- 
haps two platoons of Mark IV tanks and 
as many as thirty half-tracks filled with 
armored grenadiers. Colonel Fuller had 
ordered a platoon of the 2d Battal- 
lion to swing south and bar the 



^° The 1 10th Infantry action here is described in 
History of the iioth Infantry of the 28th Division, 
United States Army, World War II, 1^41-1^4^ 
(Atlanta, Ga.: Albert Love Enterprises, 1945) . 



road, but it was already dominated 
by the German armor. About 0930 the 
2d Platoon of Company A, 707th Tank 
Battalion, climbed out of Clerf to meet 
the German Mark IV's. At the top of 
the ascent the tanks met: four German 
tanks were knocked out, three American 
tanks destroyed. The 1st Platoon of Com- 
pany A, which had returned to Muns- 
hausen after the unsuccessful attempt 
to reach Marnach, moved north mean- 
while to help the 2d Platoon. A radio 
message alerted the commander to the 
danger of a direct approach; so the pla- 
toon and some accompanying infantry 
entered Clerf by a secondary road along 
the river. German tanks opened fire 
on them, but a direct hit stopped the 
leading Mark IV, for the moment effec- 
tively blocking the serpentine approach 
from Marnach. At the chateau, however, 
headquarters company still was hard 
pressed by riflemen and machine gun- 
ners in the houses nearby. And German 
tanks still fired from the eastern height. 

Shortly before noon German pressure 
noticeably relaxed. East of Clerf the left 
flank of the 2d Battalion started to move 
forward against an enemy assembly 
point in a woods northeast of Reuler. 
This threat north of the Marnach road 
seems to have caused the German com- 
mander some concern. Then too, some 
welcome tank support had arrived on 
the scene. On General Middleton's order, 
CCR, 9th Armored Division, had put a 
task force backstop position behind the 
threatened center of the 28th Division. 
Company B of the 2d Tank Battalion, 
en route to set up a roadblock north- 
east of Clerf, was appropriated by Gen- 
eral Cota and sent to support the iioth 
Infantry. It arrived in Clerf with nine- 
teen medium tanks. Colonel Fuller set 



FIFTH PANZER ARMY ATTACKS 28TH INFANTRY DIVISION 



191 



one platoon to clearing the Germans 
out of the south end of town, sent one 
platoon to Reuler to help the 2d Bat- 
talion, and sent one to the 1st Battalion 
at Heinerscheid where the light tanks of 
the 707th Tank Battalion had been 
smashed earlier in the day. The appear- 
ance of the Shermans in Clerf cooled the 
ardor of the German infantry. 

The 2d Panzer Division advance 
guard had taken a bloody nose on the 
Marnach road, but more tanks and in- 
fantry were arriving hourly and maneu- 
ver was possible. During the afternoon 
the Germans pressed the 2d Battalion 
back through Reuler, the Americans 
fighting stubbornly with the aid of the 
dwindling tank force from the 9th 
Armored Division and the few remain- 
ing towed tank destroyers of Company 
B, 630th Tank Destroyer Battalion. A 
platoon of self-propelled tank destroyers 
had arrived early in the afternoon but 
left precipitately, losing one gun as it 
careened down the road back through 
Clerf. Shortly before dusk Companies E 
and F dug in on a ridge north of 
Reuler under a rain of German shells. 
On their left German tanks were wip- 
ing out the last posts of the 1st Bat- 
talion. At Heinerscheid, Company A had 
been overrun in midafternoon, leaving 
open an avenue into the 2d Battalion 
left flank. Then the enemy grenadiers 
encircled the American roadblock at 
Urspelt, whereupon the light tank pla- 
toon destroyed its single remaining tank 
and withdrew on foot to Wiltz— the 2d 
Battalion flanks were wide open. 

Colonel Lauchert was worried about 
the slow rate of the 2d Panzer advance. 
He even dispatched a kampfgruppe to 
seize a bridge considerably south of Clerf 
apparently intending to swing his attack 



column to a poorer road in the event 
that Clerf continued to hold. But now 
the north road into the town was open. 
A small tank-infantry team blasted the 
single 57-mm. antitank gun in the path 
and crossed the bridge at the rail- 
road station. At the same time a tank 
platoon, shrouded in darkness and with 
no American tanks left to contest the 
passage, wound its way into the south 
end of Clerf. At 1825 Colonel Fuller 
phoned the 28th Division chief of staff 
that his command post was under fire 
and that enemy tanks occupied the town. 
Fuller and some of his staff made their 
escape, hoping to join Company G, 
which had been released at division 
headquarters and was supposed to be 
coming in from the west. Later Colonel 
Fuller was captured, with a group of 
stragglers he commanded, while at- 
tempting to break through to the west. 
At 1839 the sergeant at the regimen- 
tal switchboard called the division to 
report that he was alone— only the 
switchboard was left. 

This was not quite the end in Clerf. 
At the chateau by the south bridge 102 
officers and men of the regimental head- 
quarters company still were in action. 
Around them Clerf was crawling with 
tanks, for most of the Mark IV Bat- 
talion of the 3d Panzer Regiment had 
assembled in the town during the night. 
Perhaps the tankers were too busy loot- 
ing the American freight cars and supply 
dumps to bother with the little force in 
the chateau. Perhaps they did not care 
to risk bazooka fire in the dark. In any 
case the defenders made radio contact 
(their last) with the 28th Division as 
late as 0528 on the morning of 18 De- 
cember. The final word on the defense 
of Clerf would come from the enemy. 



192 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



At dawn the Panther Battalion of the 
Panzer Regiment came clanking 
into Clerf, after a night move from the 
Our River, and found tanks from the 
Mark IV Battalion playing cat and mouse 
with the Americans in the chateau. Bul- 
let fire from the old stone walls was no 
menace to armored vehicles, bazooka 
teams sent down from the chateau were 
killed or captured, and the German tank 
battalions moved on, north and west 
toward Bastogne. But the German in- 
fantry were more vulnerable and their 
march was delayed for several hours be- 
fore engineers and self-propelled 88's 
finally set the riddled chateau afire 
and forced the Americans to surrender. 
It is impossible to assess in hours the 
violence done the 2d Panzer Division 
timetable at Clerf, but it is clear that 
the race by this division to Bastogne was 
lost as the result of the gallant action 
by the 1 10th Infantry in front of and at 
the Clerf crossings. 

On 18 December what was left of the 
110th Infantry was wiped out or with- 
drew to the west." Survivors in the north 
headed toward Donnange and, with 
Company G, joined elements of the gth 
Armored Division to make a stand. 
Those in the south fell back toward 
Wiltz, the division command post. The 
2d Battalion, surrounded on the ridge 
east of Clerf, attempted to filter through 
the enemy lines in the early morning 
hours. Seven officers and fifty to sixty 
men did reach Donnange. Of the 1st 
Battalion, only a part of Company C 
retained its organization. It had held on 



" There is no official record of tlie losses taken 
by the noth Infantry during this phase of the 
battle. Estimates furnished the author by mem- 
bers of the regimental stafE set the figure at about 
2,750 officers and men. 



at Munshausen, with the iioth Cannon 
Company and a section of tank de- 
stroyers, all through the lyth.^^ The rifle- 
men and cannoneers made a fight of 
it, barricading the village streets with 
overturned trucks, fighting from house 
to house. After the Germans captured 
the howitzers, a bazooka team of a com- 
pany officer and a sergeant held the 
enemy tanks at bay, destroying two 
which ventured into the village. Before 
daybreak on 18 December the survivors, 
now only a handful, started west. 

Remnants of the 3d Battalion had 
assembled at Consthum, the battalion 
headquarters. The garrison of a hundred 
or so was reinforced by Company L, 
ordered back from Holzthum to avoid 
entrapment. After dark on 17 December 
a captain led in about twenty-five men 
of Company I from Weiler, after a des- 
perate march, narrow escapes, and an 
ambuscade. Only Company K in 
Hosingen was yet to be heard from. For 
two days and nights Company K and 
Company B of the 103d Engineer Com- 
bat Battalion fought oS all enemy at- 
tempts to eradicate this block on the 
Skyline Drive. On the morning of the 
17th German tanks had set the town 
ablaze, but the few American Shermans 
had held them at bay. By that night 
the defenders were without ammunition, 
but they continued the battle with hand 
grenades, withdrawing slowly and stub- 
bornly from house to house. The Ameri- 

Events of this day are very obscure. Late in 
the afternoon an American tank platoon came to 
the edge of the village but retired, the commander 
reported, when no Americans could be found. 
This withdrawal was hastened by bazooka fire 
which crippled two of the tanks. The troops bar- 
ricaded in the houses later reported that they had 
seen no American tanks but had hit two German 
tanks with bazooka shots. See MS by Maj. I. D. 
Warden and 28th Div G-3 Jnl. 



FIFTH PANZER ARMY ATTACKS 28TH INFANTRY DIVISION 



193 



can artillery by this time had displaced 
to the west and was out of range. Finally, 
on the morning of 18 December, the 
surviving members of the garrison sent 
out a last radio message; they had no 
choice but surrender. 

After the fall of Hosingen the 3d Bat- 
talion elements in Consthum offered the 
last organized resistance in the 28th 
Infantry Division center east of the Clerf 
River. Col. Daniel Strickler, the 
regimental executive officer, who now 
had assumed command at Consthum, or- 
ganized a perimeter defense of the town, 
set out mines along the approaches, and 
disposed his three effective tanks and 
three armored cars to watch for the 
enemy armor known to be on the road 
from Holzthum. Some artillery support 
was still available from a battery of the 
687th Field Artillery Battalion, whose 
shells swept the open fields between the 
two villages. A half hour before dawn 
on 18 December German guns and mor- 
tars opened heavy fire. With daylight 
the fire lifted and the enemy infantry 
advanced, attacking in one wave after 
another as the morning progressed but 
making no headway. About 1 300 a thick, 
soupy December fog rolled in on the 
village. Under this natural smoke screen 
German tanks and grenadiers poured 
into Consthum. While tanks dueled in 
the street like gunmen of the Old West 
the 3d Battalion made its orderly way 
out the west side of the town, reorgan- 
ized, and as night descended marched to 
Nocher. There it dug in to defend the 
battery which had given aid during the 
battle. The Bofors crews belonging to 
the 447th Antiaircraft Artillery lingered 
on near Consthum as a rear guard, dis- 
couraging all pursuit with their fast, ac- 
curate fire. The next day General Cota 



ordered the battalion to Wiltz, where 
it would take part in the defense of the 
division headquarters. 

The 112th Infantry Sector 
16—20 December 

The German attack to penetrate the 
front lines of the 28th Division succeeded 
on the first day of the offensive in split- 
ting the 112th Infantry from the rest of 
the division. For this reason the fight 
put up by the 112th Infantry on the 
north ffank of the division had little or 
no effect on the operations of its sister 
regiment east of Bastogne. Futhermore, 
lack of communication between the 28th 
Division and its northern regiment 
would ultimately force the regimental 
commander. Col. Gustin M. Nelson, to 
act on his own. The action of the 1 12th 
Infantry in this part of the 28th Divi- 
sion story stands therefore as an episode 
in itself until, after four days' fighting, 
the regiment joins the forces arrayed in 
defense of St. Vith.is 

When the 28th Division arrived on the 
VIII Corps front in mid-November its 
regiments were in pitiable condition. 
The fight in the Schmidt area had cost 
the 112th Infantry alone about 2,000 
killed, wounded, missing, and nonbattle 
casualties. In a month's time the flow 
of replacements had brought the regi- 
ment to full strength. The regimental 
commander believed that morale had 
been restored to a high degree and that 
the new officers and men now were fair- 
ly well trained. 

The sector held by the 112th Infantry 
was approximately six miles wide. Most 
of the positions occupied lay on the east 



See below, pp. 393-95. 



194 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



or German bank of the Our River. In 
the north, contact was maintained with 
the io6th Infantry Division at a point 
northwest of Liitzkampen. The regimen- 
tal position, really a series of squad and 
platoon posts, followed a ridge line 
south through Harspelt and Sevenig, 
then bent back across the Our and 
followed the western slopes of the river 
nearly to Kalborn. Here in the south day- 
light patrols also operated to maintain 
control of the eastern bank, although the 
main positions were around Lieler and 
Lausdorn. 

The 229th Field Artillery Battalion 
was emplaced behind the north flank 
near Welchenhausen on the German side 
of the river. Two rifle battalions 
manned the main battle positions east 
of the Our: the 1st facing Liitzkampen, 
the 3d occupying and flanking Sevenig. 
The 2d Battalion manned observation 
posts and operated patrols across the 
river but was deployed in a refused po- 
sition west of the Our. It was accounted 
the regimental reserve, having fixed 
schemes of employment for support of 
the two battalions in the north by 
counterattack either northeast or south- 
east. 

Hills intersected by wooded draws 
marked the terrain in this sector. Ex- 
tensive pine forests covered much of the 
area, making observation difficult. In 
general the ground on the east bank 
commanded. The road net was ade- 
quate, although mired by constant rain, 
but the two forward battalions had to 
be supplied at night because of German 
fire. The 3d Battalion positions on the 
German bank were built around cap- 
tured pillboxes, for here earlier Ameri- 
can advances had pierced the first line 
of the German West Wall. Since most 



of these works were "blind" the final 
protective line turned on foxholes a;nd 
extensive patches of barbed wire which 
the battalion itself had constructed. Be- 
cause the West Wall angled away to the 
east near Liitzkampen the ist Battalion 
was denied pillbox protection but, at 
the insistence of the regimental com- 
mander, had constructed a foxhole line 
with great care. 

Aside from patrol activity (generally 
small raids against individual pillboxes) 
the 1 12th Infantry sector had been quiet. 
Men in the observation posts watched 
the enemy move about his daily chores 
and reported flares and occasional rounds 
of mortar or artillery fire. Early in the 
month the Germans had undertaken 
what appeared to be a routine relief in 
their forward positions. On the nights 
of 14 and 15 December, sounds of horse- 
drawn vehicles and motors moving in 
slow gear drifted to the American out- 
posts; but since the same commotion had 
attended an earlier relief in the German 
lines, it was reported and perfunctorily 
dismissed. 

The stir and movement in the enemy 
lines during the two nights prior to i6 
December was occasioned by troops 
moving in and troops moving out. The 
26th Folks Grenadier Division, which 
had allowed the 112th to go about its 
training program with only very minor 
interruption, marched south to join the 
XLVII Panzer Corps and take part in 
the attack for Bastogne. Its pillboxes and 
supporting positions were occupied in 
greater strength as the LVIII Panzer 
Corps (Krueger) moved in. In the 
first German blueprint for the Ardennes 
counteroffensive the latter corps had 
been assigned four divisions and the 
mission of driving to and across the 



FIFTH PANZER ARMY ATTACKS 28TH INFANTRY DIVISION 



195 



Meuse River on the right of its old com- 
rade, the XLVII Panzer Corps. The mis- 
sion remained, but the troops available 
on 16 December were less than half the 
number promised: one armored division, 
the ii6th Panzer Division, and two- 
thirds of an infantry division, the ^6oth 
Folks Grenadier Division. 

The 116th had fought itself out in 
almost continuous battles during the 
withdrawal across France and the de- 
fense of the West Wall but had a fine 
reputation and was fairly well refitted. 
It had ninety-two Panthers and forty- 
seven Mark IV tanks; perhaps 40 per- 
cent of its organic vehicles were missing. 
The ^6oth, activated from inexperi- 
enced garrison units in Norway and 
Denmark, had been tagged for the Rus- 
sian front. Directed to the west by Hit- 
ler's orders, the division would see its 
first action in the Ardennes. One rifle 
regiment and part of the division engi- 
neers were still in Denmark. The artil- 
lery supporting the L VIII Panzer Corps 
consisted of five battalions plus two Wer- 
fer battalions, and a few batteries of 
heavy guns. It appears that the corps had 
only moderate support in the way of 
engineers and bridge trains. 

The immediate mission of Krueger's 
corps, like that of the XLVII Panzer 
Corps on its left, was to seize crossings 
at the Our River. The areas selected by 
the two corps for their main efforts were 
some six to seven air-line miles apart- 
an indication of the weight to be thrown 
against the American 28th Infantry Divi- 
sion. The line of departure for Krueger's 
corps began across the Our from Kalborn 
and extended north to a point east of 
Burg Reuland. The bulk of his two divi- 
sions, as a consequence, faced the 112th 
Infantry, albeit the corps zone overlap- 



ped somewhat the sectors of the io6th 
Infantry Division in the north and the 
iioth Infantry in the south. Krueger 
had based his plan of attack on the in- 
telligence reports dealing with the Our 
bridges. Since the American troops east 
of the Our were deployed in the Liitz- 
kampen-Sevenig area, Krueger deter- 
mined that his main effort should be 
made there. Roads and bridges, he reck- 
oned, must be in shape to support the 
American troops east of the river. These 
roads and bridges he intended to seize 
by surprise. 

On the corps right, then, the ii6th 
Panzer Division (Generalmajor Sieg- 
fried von Waldenburg) had orders to 
attack north of Liitzkampen; at least two 
or more bridges crossed the Our in this 
sector. The $6oth Volks Grenadier Divi- 
sion (Generalmajor Rudolf Langhaeu- 
' ser) was assigned two specific bridges 
as targets, one just north of Ouren, the 
other a stone arch a little to the south 
of the village. Because surprise was es- 
sential in this stroke for the bridges, 
artillery fire on the American forward 
positions in the first moments of the 
assault was forbidden. 

The heavy barrage and the pyrotech- 
nic display which opened elsewhere on 
the 28th Division front on 16 December 
was viewed at first with some detachment 
by the men at the 112th observation 
posts. They heard, and duly reported, 
heavy artillery to the south, they saw 
searchlights and flames lighting up the 
sky, but again in the south. About 0620, 
however, the 1st Battalion phoned to 
say that shells were coming over the bat- 
talion command post. The German guns 
and Werfers had finally opened fire 
to neutralize or destroy the rearward 
artillery and reserve positions in the 



196 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



iigth sector. As the enemy gun layers 
dropped their range back to the river 
and then to the American positions, the 
searchlights blinked on, searching out 
pillboxes and bunkers. When daylight 
came, the German infantry already were 
stealing through the draws behind and 
around the forward platoons, aiming to 
assemble in the wooded areas to the 
rear." 

The 3d Battalion (Maj. Walden F. 
Woodward) , in the regimental center, 
was hit by the iijoth Regiment of the 
^6oth Volks Grenadier Division. This 
German blow fell on either side of 
Sevenig, held by Company L. The Amer- 
ican barbed wire line had not been com- 
pleted across the draws to the north and 
south of the village; through these gaps 
the shock companies advanced. The com- 
pany leading the left battalion surprised 
a platoon of Company L at breakfast, 
overran the company kitchen (which 
was only 800 to 900 yards behind the 
rifle line) and killed the platoon com- 
mander. Leaderless, the platoon broke. 
A part of the German company, perhaps 
a platoon in strength, succeeded in reach- 
ing the stone bridge over the Our south 
of Ouren, but was dispersed. 

The bulk of the 3d Battalion held 
their positions despite surprise, defend- 
ing from pillboxes and foxholes. Later 
the Americans in this sector reported 
that the attackers must have been "aw- 



"MSS # B-321 (Krueger); A-873, Commit- 
ment of the ii6th Panzer Division in the Ardennes, 
16-26 December 1944 (Generalmajor Siegfried 
von Waldenburg) ; A-874, Commitment of the 
ii6th Panzer Division in the Ardennes, 1944-45 
(Waldenburg) ; B-027, 560th Volks Grenadier 
Division, 15-29 December 1944, and 12th Volks 
Grenadier Division, 1-28 January 1945 (General- 
major Rudolf Langhaeuser). The Germans sited 
their searchlights five to eight kilometers from 
the American main line of resistance. 



fully green"— as indeed they were. The 
enemy attempt to capture or destroy the 
American command posts, kitchens, and 
observation posts was only partially suc- 
cessful, although the grenadier assault 
parties were well inside the 3d Battalion 
positions when day broke. Two company 
kitchens were captured and one or two 
observation posts cut off, but the artil- 
lery observer inside Sevenig was able to 
direct the ssgth Field Artillery how- 
itzers onto the Germans in the draw. 
Meanwhile the mortar crews took a hand 
from their foxholes on the hill behind 
Sevenig, dropping mortar shells into the 
hollows where the Germans congregated 
or picking them oft with carbines. 

Early morning reports of considerable 
German penetration and the threat to 
the Our bridges in the 3d Battalion 
area led the regimental commander to 
put one of his counterattack plans into 
operation. At 0930 two companies of 
the 2d Battalion (Lt. Col. J. L. Mac- 
Salka) assembled in a draw between 
Ouren and Lieler (west of the river) , 
crossed the bridges— the German pa- 
trol at the stone bridge had evapo- 
rated under machine gun fire— and 
moved toward Sevenig. The Germans 
in the way quickly withdrew to the 
east. By nightfall the 3d Battalion 
line on the Sevenig ridge had been 
restored while the commander of the 
ii^oth reported that his regiment, de- 
spite many attempts, had not been able 
"to get going." 

The main effort launched by the 
LVIII Panzer Corps on 16 December 
was assigned the ii6th Panzer Division. 
This attack aimed at the bridges near 
Burg Reuland (in the io6th Division 
sector) and Oberhausen, in the rear 
of the positions manned by the left 



FIFTH PANZER ARMY ATTACKS 28TH INFANTRY DIVISION 



197 



battalion of the 112th. General Walden- 
burg committed his infantry here, in the 
predawn hours, hoping that the 60th 
Regiment would break through on the 
right or that the i^6th Regiment would 
reach the river on the left and so secure 
a bridgehead through which his tank 
regiment could be passed. The lay of 
the ground and defenses in the area 
north of Liitzkampen were such that 
Waldenburg's right regiment had to 
move northwestward at an oblique to 
the axis of his left wing advance. 

In common with the German assault 
tactics employed all along the front on 
16 December, both regiments led off 
with a predawn advance by shock com- 
panies eighty men strong. The company 
from the 60th ran into trouble almost 
immediately when it was immobilized 
in some woods northwest of Berg by 
flanking fire from Heckhuscheid, in the 
424th Infantry sector. Later reports in- 
dicate that this group was almost wiped 
out. The assault company from the i^6th 
was initially more fortunate in its ad- 
vance west of Liitzkampen. By 0630 the 
grenadiers were behind the command 
post of the 1st Battalion (Lt. Col. Wil- 
liam H. Allen) in Harspelt; the first 
sign of their presence was a kitchen truck 
ambushed while journeying to the rear. 
The advance party of grenadiers had 
moved along the wooded draw between 
the two companies holding the 1st Bat- 
talion line. 

When day came the Americans caught 
the troops following the advance party 
of the assault company out in the open. 
Interlocking machine gun and rifle fire 
blocked off the German reinforcements, 
some sixty were captured and the rest 
dug in where they could. Company D, 
in its support position on the high 



ground overlooking Liitzkampen, mean- 
while commenced mopping up the ene- 
my who had filtered between the compa- 
nies on the line. By noon Company D 
had so many prisoners that it "couldn't 
handle them all!" Nonetheless some part 
of the assault wave had broken through 
as far as the battery positions near Wel- 
chenhausen, where they were repelled 
by the .50-caliber quadruple mounts of 
the antiaircraft artillery. 

Shortly before noon the advance guard 
of the 60th Panzer Regiment, rolling 
along the Liitzkampen-Leidenborn road, 
appeared on the knoll west of Liitzkam- 
pen. The seven tanks counted here 
strangely enough made no effort to at- 
tack (perhaps the rough terrain and 
dragon's teeth along the American bun- 
ker line did not appear too promising) . 
After a brief pause they wheeled back 
into Liitzkampen.!^ About dark infantry 
from Liitzkampen attacked in close or- 
der formation against Company B. 
Maps picked up from dead Germans 
showed that the American machine gun 
positions had been exactly plotted— but 
as they had existed up to a change made 
just before the 16th. The enemy made 
three attacks in the same close forma- 
tion over the same ground before they 
discovered the error of their ways. Com- 
pany B, however, had been badly shot 
up during the engagement and proba- 
bly somewhat shaken by the presence of 
two or three flame-throwing tanks— a new 
experience to most American troops on 
the Western Front. Nevertheless by 
midnight the 1st Battalion front had 



" It is quite possible that the German tank ac- 
tivity here was discouraged diiring daylight by 
the sharp-shooting Private Rosenthal, manning 
his tank destroyer in the 424th Infantry sector. 
See above, ch. VII, p. 153. 



198 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



quieted down, although there still were 
small groups of the enemy crawling 
about in the gap breached that morn- 
ing. Liitzkampen would continue as a 
sally port for sorties against the ist Bat- 
talion and the best efforts by the Amer- 
ican field pieces to flatten the village 
failed to still the men and vehicles mov- 
ing in its streets. 

The German plans had been altered 
during the day, but of course some 
time was needed for orders to reach 
the front-line troops. Bad tank-going in 
the West Wall maze north of Liitzkam- 
pen and the initial reverse suffered by 
the assault company of the 6oth Regi- 
ment led the corps commander to or- 
der the ii6th Panzer Division to pivot 
its weight on Liitzkampen in a drive 
southwestward toward Ouren. Leav- 
ing only a screening force behind, the 
6oth Regiment started a march intend- 
ed to bring it east of Sevenig on the 
left of the i$6th Regiment. Although 
the left division (the $6oth Folks 
Grenadier Division) had not fared too 
well in the attack on Sevenig, farther 
to the south its 1128th Regiment had 
seized a blasted bridge three kilometers 
east of Heinerscheid and established a 
bridgehead over the Our at the bound- 
ary between the 112th Infantry and the 
110th Infantry. This had been accom- 
plished by noon on the first day— as usu- 
al a boundary line had proved a point 
of little resistance— and the German en- 
gineers moved in. The approach road 
on the east bank was blocked with trees 
and mines, the bridge debris would 
have taken much effort to clear, and to 
Krueger's disappointment there was no 
assurance that a bridge could be in be- 
fore the night of 17 December. On the 
evening of 16 December, therefore, the 



German commander ordered the corps 
to continue the attack for the bridges 
at Ouren. Meanwhile he dispatched the 
Reconnaissance Battalion of the ii6th 
Panzer Division to cross the XL VII Pan- 
zer Corps bridge at Dasburg and com- 
mence a sweep along the western bank 
calculated to take the Ouren crossings 
from the rear. 

At the close of this first day the 112th 
Infantry remained in its positions east 
of the Our.i* The 2d Battalion had not 
yet been seriously engaged, although 
one company had been detached to 
reinforce the 3d. Both flanks of the 
regiment, however, were in process of 
being uncovered by enemy thrusts 
against the neighboring units— although 
this effect may not have been immedi- 
ately apparent. A gap remained in the 
center of the 1st Battalion line and small 
groups of the enemy were wandering 
along the Our River. 

Considerable damage had been done 
the German assault forces. Although the 
ii6th Panzer Division losses were moder- 
ate, the inexperienced ^6oth Folks 
Grenadier Division had suffered an esti- 
mated 1,000 casualties— a figure, how- 
ever, that included the reinforced fusi- 
lier company which got lost in the woods 
southwest of Sevenig and was not seen 
again for two days. Perhaps the Ameri- 
cans had some reason for elation on the 
night of 16 December, but all knew that 
harder blows would be dealt on the 
morrow. Wrote one in his diary: "No- 
body able to sleep and no hot meals 



1° During the fighting on 16 December P£c. 
W. S. Rush stayed in the line at an exposed 
point, hurling grenades and firing his rifle al- 
though he was badly wounded. Rush refused to 
leave his post and died there of his wounds. He 
was awarded the DSC. 



FIFTH PANZER ARMY ATTACKS 28TH INFANTRY DIVISION 



199 



today. This place is not healthy any- 
more." 

The presence of enemy tanks in Liitz- 
kampen constituted a distinct threat, 
even to infantry in pillboxes. Colonel 
Nelson's antitank reserve, Company C, 
630th Tank Destroyer Battalion, was de- 
ployed on the ridge west of the river, 
hut these were towed guns, dug in and 
relatively immobile. Even so, the unit 
accounted for six tanks on the 16th and 
broke up two panzer assaults of com- 
pany size. On the afternoon of the 16th 
the division commander had loaned 
Neslon the light tank company of the 
707th Tank Battalion, but after a sweep 
through the 1st Battalion area in which 
not a shot was fired the tanks recrossed 
the river. Subsequently General Cota 
ordered them to go to the aid of the 
hard-pressed 110th Infantry. This move 
was made early in the morning with 
disastrous results recorded earlier. Some 
additional help for the 112th did arrive 
before daybreak on 17 December, four 
self-propelled tank destroyers out of the 
811th Tank Destroyer Battalion bor- 
rowed from Combat Command Reserve, 
gth Armored Division, at Trois Vierges. 
Finally, the regimental antitank and can- 
non companies were disposed around 
Ouren guarding the bridges, the roads, 
and the regimental command post. 

Through the early hours of 17 De- 
cember American outposts reported 
sounds of tank movement in Liitzkam- 
pen. This was the Mark V Battalion of 
the ii6th Panzer Division assembling to 
lead the attack toward the Ouren 
bridges. About an hour before dawn 
eleven searchlights flicked on, their rays 
glancing dully from the low clouds back 
onto the Liitzkampen-Sevenig ridge. The 
German artillery could take a hand this 



morning, particularly since a number of 
forward observers had wormed into the 
American positions. First the Werfers 
and guns pounded the front line, par- 
ticularly the 1st Battalion positions. 
Then as the attack got moving they were 
raised to lay heavy counterbattery fire 
on the 229th Field Artillery Battalion 
(Lt. Col. John C. Fairchild). With 
the first light some eighteen Mark V 
tanks started down the ridge spur point- 
ing toward Ouren; at the same time the 
iijoth Regiment and the i^6th Regi- 
ment resumed the attack to cut off and 
destroy the forward American compa- 
nies. Company A, directly in the way, 
lost a platoon to tanks rolling and firing 
methodically along the foxhole line. 
Through this gap the panzers moved in 
on the support positions held by Com- 
pany D. 

Earlier a German infantry company 
in close order had been caught in the 
glare of its own headlights atop a hill 
and been massacred by Company D 
sections lying on the reverse slope, but 
at 0755 Company D was forced to send 
out an urgent plea for help "and damn 
quick." West of Harspelt the self-pro- 
pelled tank destroyer platoon from the 
811th arrived in time to destroy four 
of the panzers, but at the cost of all 
but one of its own guns. Colonel Nel- 
son sent back request after request for 
air support. The first American planes 
arrived at 0935, immobilizing the Ger- 
man tanks momentarily. Company D 
positions had been taken by assault only 
a few minutes earlier. About this time 
a German tank platoon appeared on 
the ridge less than a thousand yards 
from the regimental command post in 
Ouren. Five hundred yards from the 
Germans, on the far side of a draw, the 




OuREN, Showing Bridges 



202 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



cannon company gunners quickly bore- 
sighted their pieces, loaded reduced 
charge, and with direct fire knocked out 
four of the panzers. A scratch platoon 
of less than fifty men collected from the 
regimental headquarters and Ouren 
held the supporting German infantry 
at bay along the ridge east of the vil- 
lage. 

The tank thrust through the ist Bat- 
talion center pushed parts of compa- 
nies C (a platoon of which had joined 
the battalion from training) , A, and D 
back through the woods toward Wel- 
chenhausen. Here about ten o'clock. Bat- 
tery C of the 229th came under direct 
tank fire but stopped the tanks with how- 
itzer fire at close range while Company 
G of the 44'7th Antiaircraft Artillery 
Battalion used its quad mount machine 
guns to chop down the infantry follow- 
ing behind. 

About noon the 2d Battalion coun- 
terattacked and German pressure along 
the 112th front began to wane. The 
229th Field Artillery Battalion pounded 
the German assembly point at Liitzkam- 
pen as hard as limited stock of shells 
permitted and fighter-bombers plastered 
the village: "air tremendously effective" 
reported the expectant ground observ- 
ers. But there were too few guns and 
too few air sorties to keep the enemy 
immobilized for long. Probably by this 
time a good share of the ii6th tanks had 
been committed. Certainly the enemy 
infantry were spreading rapidly through 
the woods and draws between the Amer- 
ican front line and the Our River. By 
1315 the howitzers around Welchenhau- 
sen again were firing at their minimum 
range. Three-quarters of an hour later 
the regimental commander ordered the 
artillery to displace behind the river; 



Colonel Fairchild moved the battalion 
across the river without losing a piece 
and immediately resumed firing. 

Throughout this entire action the 
229th gave the 112th Infantry such sup- 
port as to elicit from the regimental com- 
mander the opinion that "it was the best 
artillery in the army," an expression 
which would be used by other infantry 
commanders about other artillery units 
during these trying days. In this case, as 
in many others during the American 
withdrawal, the full story is that of 
the co-operation of the combined arms. 
The field artillery commander in his 
turn would credit the ably served .50- 
caliber machine guns and 40-mm. 
Bofors of the protecting antiaircraft com- 
pany with saving his howitzers. 

News of the battle on the right and 
left of the 112th Infantry sector had 
been sparse. During the afternoon Gen- 
eral Cota radioed Colonel Nelson to be 
especially watchful of his northern flank, 
but added that if his own position be- 
came untenable he should withdraw at 
dark behind the Our. About 1515 Nel- 
son sent his executive officer, Lt. Col. 
William F. Train, to the 28th Divi- 
sion command post with orders to report 
personally on the regiment's position. 
Cota, as it turned out, already had 
phoned the corps commander and asked 
permission to bring the 112th back to 
the high ground west of the river. Gen- 
eral Middleton agreed, but with the pro- 
viso that the regiment should remain 
close enough to the river to deny an en- 
emy crossing. 

Although this final word seems to 
have reached Ouren about 1600, Colonel 
Nelson did not act immediately on the 
order because he still had hopes that 
the entrapped 1st Battalion could be 



FIFTH PANZER ARMY ATTACKS 28TH INFANTRY DIVISION 203 



reached. The 3d Battalion, fighting most- 
ly against infantry, had held its own 
through the day, aided greatly by the 
possession of the pillbox line, far 
stronger than the defensive positions in 
the 1st Battalion sector. Then, too, the 
2d Battalion had once again used the 
stone bridge south of Ouren to launch a 
counterattack across the river and, dur- 
ing the afternoon, materially restored 
the 3d Battalion positions. But the Ger- 
man tanks were fanning out as the day 
drew to a close, turning attention to the 
south as well as the west. Patrols could 
not reach the 1st Battalion and at dusk 
the 3d Battalion reported that the pan- 
zers finally were in position to rake 
its ridge defenses with fire from the 
north— the pillbox line no longer was 
tenable. Colonel Nelson gave the order 
to withdraw behind the river under 
cover of darkness. 

The regimental command post staff 
left Ouren even while the enemy was 
filtering into the village and moved to 
Weiswampach. The speed of the Ger- 
man attack caught most of the regimen- 
tal medical company and troops from 
the headquarters and cannon com- 
panies. The 3d Battalion commenced 
its withdrawal at 2200 under orders to 
pull back through Ouren. Fortunately 
Major Woodward, the battalion com- 
manding officer, was suspicious of this 
route. His suspicions were confirmed 
when a patrol sent into the town failed 
to return. The 3d Battalion then crossed 
the river farther to the south, circled and 
finally dug in along the Ouren-Weis- 
wampach road, where its flank would be 
covered by the refused line of the 2d Bat- 
talion. A patrol which had been sent 
from the 3d Battalion to carry the with- 
drawal order to the 1st Battalion com- 



mand post, still holding on at Harspelt, 
failed to get through. Fortunately radio 
contact was re-established from Weis- 
wampach shortly after midnight and 
the 1st Battalion was given orders to 
withdraw through the former 3d Bat- 
talion positions. Company B, on the ex- 
treme north flank, had been forced 
back into the 424th Infantry area, but 
about 235 men withdrew cross-country 
toward Ouren. 

Near the village a patrol found that 
the stone bridge was guarded by only 
a half squad of Germans. The Ameri- 
cans lined up in German formation and, 
while an officer shouted commands in 
German, marched boldly across the 
bridge. The next morning Colonel Nel- 
son was able to tell General Cota, "Very 
good news. 1st Battalion has worked [its] 
way back." The little group from regi- 
mental headquarters which had been de- 
ployed on the ridge line at Ouren was 
less successful. Completely surrounded 
by the enemy, it had hoped to join the 
withdrawal of the line companies. The 
group never established contact, how- 
ever, and most of its members were cap- 
tured when they attempted to break 
away the following morning. 

Although the enemy had seized all 
of the ground which the 1 1 2th Infantry 
was occupying east of the Our and final- 
ly had secured a bridgehead at Ouren, 
the cost to him on 17 December had 
been high. At least fifteen tanks had 
been disabled or destroyed on the first 
day and German sources indicate that 
this figure may have doubled on the 
17th. The Americans had taken 186 
prisoners and killed or wounded two 
or three times that number; the losses 
in the ii^oth Regiment were "very 
high," said the enemy reports. It is im- 



204 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



possible to give an accurate count of 
losses in the 112th Infantry, but they 
seem to have been moderate. Most mem- 
bers of the 1st Battalion, for example, 
eventually found their way back to the 
regiment. 

The degree of tactical success achieved 
by the 112th Infantry and the fact that 
it was able to hold intact as a regi- 
ment may be explained by a number 
of factors. The ground east of the river 
was favorable to the defender, who was 
well entrenched as the result of careful 
planning and inspection by Nelson and 
his staff, and whose guns covered the 
few routes of mechanized advance. The 
numerous pillboxes provided a substan- 
tial amount of cover; the 3d Battalion, 
for example, was not seriously endan- 
gered until the attacking tanks maneu- 
vered close enough for direct fire. The 
refused positions of the 2d Battalion 
allowed fairly free use of a regimental 
reserve during both days and good 
counterattack plans were ready. Equal- 
ly important, the green ii^oth Regiment 
(incorporated into the 11 6th Panzer Di- 
vision attack on the second day) had 
failed to follow closely in the path of 
the tanks and so gave American rifle- 
men and machine gunners time to get 
set after the tanks rolled past. 

Even before the seizure of Ouren the 
LVIII Panzer Corps had shifted its in- 
terest to the south. By the second day 
it was apparent that the combination 
of stubborn resistance and poor ap- 
proach roads would delay the projected 
crossing at Ouren. The orders given 
the ii6th Panzer Division on the night of 
16 December to switch to the left were 
altered on the 17th to start its infantry 
regiments marching still farther south 
to the Dasburg bridgehead held by the 



neighboring corps. Although delayed 
by inadequate deliveries of POL and 
the traffic jam on the damaged Dasburg- 
Marnach road the entire division, in- 
cluding its tank regiment, assembled 
on the west bank around Heinerscheid 
during the night of 17-18 December. 
The main body of the $6oth Volks Gren- 
adier Division also had detoured around 
the stubborn men and difficult ground 
in the 112th Infantry area, extending 
the bridgehead which the 1128th Regi- 
ment had seized east of Heinerscheid on 
17 December. Only the weakened 
ii^oth Regiment and the division fusi- 
lier company, once again in touch with 
its fellows, were left behind to extend 
the bridgehead formed at Ouren. 

All this gave the 112th Infantry a 
chance to get its breath on 18 December. 
A few attacks were started against the 
new American line, which now covered 
Beiler, Lieler, and Lausdorn, but none 
were energetic. Throughout the day the 
American outposts watched masses of 
foot troops and vehicles defile westward 
through Heinerscheid, only some two 
thousand yards to the south. The regi- 
mental cannon company also provided 
some interested spectators, who trained 
their howitzers on Heinerscheid with 
such good effect that enemy records take 
rueful note of this harassing fire from 
the north. 

Communication between the 112th 
and division headquarters had been 
sketchy since 16 December, depending 
on artillery radio nets and liaison of- 
ficers. Early in the afternoon of 18 De- 
cember a radio message finally arrived 
at the division command post asking 
that the regiment be given instructions. 
General Cota had been trying through 
most of the morning to reach Nelson 



FIFTH PANZER ARMY ATTACKS 28TH INFANTRY DIVISION 



205 



with an order to hold in essentially the 
positions which the regiment now oc- 
cupied.i^ But the situation east of Bas- 
togne was growing more precarious and 
the division commander decided to 
bring the 112th back to join in the de- 
fense of Bastogne. About 1700 he ra- 
dioed new orders: the 112th Infantry 
was to fight a stiff delaying action along 
the line Weiswampach-Trois Vierges, 
and thence toward Bastogne. Two hours 
later the 112th Infantry acknowledged 
receipt of these instructions. 

Colonel Nelson decided to pull back 
through Huldange since enemy tanks 
were known to be in Trois Vierges. 
Early on 19 December the 112th In- 
fantry and 229th Field Artillery Bat- 
talion moved under cover of a heavy 
fog and assembled without hindrance 
around Huldange, the defensive front 
now facing south. Here Nelson received 
a message from the 28th Division which 
ordered the regiment to hold the line 
Lausdorn-Weiswampach-Beiler, which 
the 112th Infantry had just abandoned. 
Colonel Nelson at this moment had 
two contradictory orders and would 
have to risk his regiment if he car- 
ried out either. 

Through the roundabout artillery 
channels he asked permission to join 
the 106th Infantry Division, only a lit- 
tle distance away to the north. Nelson 
also reported to General Jones at Viel- 
salm and set the problem before him. 
Jones attached the 112th Infantry to 
his own division on the spot, assuring 
Nelson that he would assume full re- 
sponsibility. The sequence of events in 

^'Cota was acting on orders from the VIII 
Corps commander who wished to deny the enemy 
the use of Highway N 26, the main paved road 
from the south into St. Vith. 



this story of difficulties in command and 
communication is none too clear, but 
the VIII Corps commander approved the 
attachment. On the morning of the 20th 
Jones ordered the regiment to sideslip 
back to the east, reoccupy Beiler, and 
dig in along the east-west ridge line, 
Leithum-Beiler-Malscheid. Thus de- 
ployed on the right of the 424th Infan- 
try, the 112th was another piece filling 
out the fast developing "island defense" 
of St. Vith. 

The Fall of Wiltz 

The total impact of the severe Ger- 
man blows dealt the 110th Infantry in 
the late afternoon and evening of 17 
December was not felt at the division 
and corps headquarters for several hours. 
Information on the hard-pressed battal- 
ions and their companies was sketchy 
and secondhand. At 2013 General Cota 
phoned the VIII Corps commander to 
say that the situation was critical, that 
routes were open for the German tanks 
to come through, and that "there is 
some question in regard to the 110th 
Infantry CP." He added, however, that 
he had "three battalions now trying 
to counterattack from Clerf to Mar- 
nach." (By this hour, of course, the 
story was quite different: the 1st Bat- 
talion was cut to pieces, most of the 
2d Battalion was surrounded, and the 
3d Battalion was holding at Consthum 
and Hosingen only by the skin of its 
teeth.) 

The corps commander was loath to 
yield ground to the enemy. Nonethe- 
less he advised Cota to withdraw the 
1 10th back of the Clerf, that "under the 
circumstances it was necessary." Further- 
more, Middleton instructed Cota to use 



206 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



his tanks and tank destroyers to block 
the roads west of the river. 

The 28th Division commander agreed 
to pull back where he could, but by 
the morning of the 1 8th it was apparent 
that to re-establish any sort of front be- 
hind the Clerf was impossible. The 
bridges at Clerf and Wilwerwiltz were 
in German hands (no preparations had 
been made to destroy them) ; most of 
the sixty tanks committed in the central 
sector were destroyed. No help could 
be expected from either the right or left 
wing regiments in shoring up the divi- 
sion center. The 109th Infantry was 
losing ground on its north flank and soon 
would be forced back fanwise into the 
gth Armored Division zone. The 112th 
Infantry south wing was giving way un- 
der heavy attack, and during the day all 
communications between the regiment 
and division were lost. 

Miscellaneous troops of the 110th In- 
fantry had joined with units of Com- 
bat Command R of the gth Armored 
Division (briefly under operational con- 
trol of the 28th Infantry Division) to 
defend along the main road to Bastogne 
in the area west of Clerf. The respon- 
sibility for command here was assumed 
directly by the VIII Corps. General 
Cota, as a result, decided to concen- 
trate what was left to him— headquar- 
ters troops, engineers, stragglers, and 
the handful of organized units moving 
back from across the Clerf— in defense 
of Wiltz, the 28th Division command 
post. This sizable town lay in a bend of 
the Wiltz River valley, southwest of 
Clerf and some three miles away from 
the enemy-held crossings at Wilwerwiltz. 
Next to the paved through highway via 
Clerf, the Wiltz valley offered the best 
avenue westward. The road center at 



Wiltz and the bridges there were only 
about twelve miles from Bastogne. It 
would be natural, therefore, for the 
Germans debouching from the Wilwer- 
wiltz bridgehead to defile through the 
Wiltz valley. 

About 1000 on 18 December, Gen- 
eral Cota received the welcome word 
that a combat command of the 10th Ar- 
mored Division was moving forward to 
his assistance, probably to be in position 
to give support by the late afternoon. 
Middleton had ordered the 44th Engi- 
neer Combat Battalion (Lt. Col. 
Clarion J. Kjeldseth) to Wiltz on the 
previous evening with about six hundred 
men (it had been operating sawmills 
and rock crushers, working on roads, 
and the like) . This unit now relieved 
the provisional battalion, hastily formed 
from the 28th Division headquarters, 
by setting up positions north and east 
of the town. There were also avail- 
able some tanks and guns to help the 
engineers, bandsmen, telephone line- 
men, and paymasters who composed the 
defense. All that remained of the 707th 
Tank Battalion— some six crippled tanks 
and five assault guns— was gathered 
in Wiltz after a rear guard action in 
Wilwerwiltz. Six three-inch towed tank 
destroyers from the 630th Tank De- 
stroyer Battalion, weapons of the 447th 
Antiaircraft Battalion, and light ar- 
mored cars of the 28th Reconnaissance 
Troop reinforced the perimeter. 
Southeast of the town the undergunned 
batteries of the 687th Field Artillery 
Battalion held firing positions along the 
road, sited to cover the Wiltz perimeter 
or support the 3d Battalion, iioth In- 
fantry, fighting at Consthum. 

It will be recalled that the troops at 
Consthum held the poist Panzer Grena- 



FIFTH PANZER ARMY ATTACKS 28TH INFANTRY DIVISION 



207 



dier Regiment at bay until the after- 
noon of 18 December and, even as they 
withdrew, continued to block the road 
to Wiltz. The northern regiment of the 
Panzer Lehr Division, the posd, made 
better progress. The capitulation of the 
gallant garrison at Hosingen, during 
the morning, removed this threat to 
the po2d supply road. The 26th Volks 
Grenadier Division, having completed its 
initial mission by seizing an undamaged 
bridge across the Clerf at Drauffelt dur- 
ing the night, made way for the Panzer 
Lehr Division to strike for Bastogne. 
The Panzer Lehr Reconnaissance Bat- 
talion, earlier withdrawn from the fight 
at Holzthum, reverted to its parent 
command and crossed the river first. 
The po2d, advancing by way of Muns- 
hausen, now cleared of Americans, fol- 
lowed. Despite harassing fire from 
American guns and mortars the Ger- 
mans moved swiftly. At the crossroads 
east of Eschweiler the Reconnaissance 
Battalion turned to the left and bore 
down on Wiltz. The po2d, led in person 
by the division commander, continued 
toward the west, although briefly de- 
layed in a fight with a few towed anti- 
tank guns and armored cars near Esch- 
weiler.^* 

German field guns, by this time west 
of the Clerf, opened fire on Wiltz at 
noon. Two hours later tanks and self- 
propelled guns struck the 44th Engi- 
neers, which was outposting the little 
hamlets northeast of Wiltz. A section 
of tank destroyers, supporting the for- 
ward outpost, was overrun by the more 



'^The Americans lost four tank destroyers and 
eight armored cars. It would appear they were 
surprised by the speed of the German advance; 
the enemy assault was being made by bicycle 
troops. 



mobile German tanks, but the engineers 
held their fire for the German infantry 
on the heels of the panzers and then 
cut loose, with satisfying results. The 
American howitzers, south of Wiltz, al- 
so took a hand in slowing the German 
attack. But the enemy armor weight was 
too heavy, nor could it be checked by 
the handful of tanks and light assault 
guns remaining to the 707th Tank Bat- 
talion. By dusk the American line had 
been pushed back nearly to Wei- 
dingen when orders came to withdraw 
behind the Wiltz River and destroy 
the bridge at Weidingen. For some rea- 
son the bridge was not blown. But the 
pressure on the Wiltz perimeter relaxed 
briefly as the Panzer Lehr Reconnais- 
sance Battalion turned back toward 
the north to rejoin its division in the 
race for Bastogne. Infantry of the 26th 
Volks Grenadier Division took over the 
attack on the northeast (probably the 
^pth Volks Grenadier Regiment) . 

On German operations maps Wiltz 
lay athwart the boundary which divided 
the attack zones of the XLVII Panzer 
Corps and the LXXXV Corps. On 
19 December the right wing division 
of the latter, the ^th Parachute Divi- 
sion, took over the attack on Wiltz, or 
perhaps more accurately, drifted into a 
fight for the town. On the evening of 
the 18th Col. Ludwig Heilmann, com- 
mander of the ^th Parachute Division, 
knew that the divisions on his right 
and left were well ahead of his 
own. In fact the troops of the 26th 
Volks Grenadier Division sent against 
Wiltz from the northeast were acting 
under orders to protect the flank and 
rear of Panzer Lehr against possible 
American counterattack from the Wiltz 
valley. Heilmann, therefore, had decid- 



208 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



ed to bypass Wiltz on 19 December with 
his entire division but now found that 
he could not get his regiments back in 
hand. The ^th Parachute Division com- 
mander had already experienced great 
difficulty in maintaining control of his 
units in action. His staff and regimental 
commanders, appointees of General- 
oberst Kurt Student, had formed a 
clique against the previous commander 
and were hostile to Heilmann.^® Further- 
more, troops and troop leaders were 
poorly trained, coming as they had only 
recently from Luftwaffe ground units. 
Even on the first day of the offensive 
one of Heilmann's regiments had been 
lost for several hours. This experience, 
events would show, had borne little 
fruit. 

On the morning of 19 December the 
headquarters of the 88th Infantry 
Division transferred from Wiltz to Sib- 
ret, southwest of Bastogne. The pro- 
visional battalion which had been re- 
cruited from the headquarters staff re- 
mained in Wiltz. Meanwhile General 
Cota had ordered Colonel Strickler to 
move in the 3d Battalion, 110th Infan- 
try, from Nocher. The battalion, per- 
haps 800 strong, arrived in Wiltz about 
noon and Strickler assumed command 
of the forces in the town. During the 
morning the 26th Volks Grenadier Di- 
vision engaged in desultory action, mov- 
ing troops around to the north. Since the 
Wiltz bridge had not been destroyed, 
the American assault gun platoon was 
ordered back to Erpeldange, covering 

^'The so-called Parachute Army had developed 
originally as a partisan and personal creation of 
Goering. As a result it was ridden with politics. 
The account of Heilmann's difficulties is in MS 
# B-023, Parachute Division, i December 

1944-12 January 1945 (Generalmajor Ludwig 
Heilmann) . 



the northeastern approach to the bridge 
and the engineer outposts. Four of 
the 707 th tanks that had been crippled 
the previous day were drawn up on the 
ridge east of Wiltz to give what help 
they might as more or less stationary 
artillery. The Americans were not too 
worried by the flanking move because 
tanks of the 10th Armored Division 
were expected momentarily. 

The German infantry on the north 
side of town aligned for the assault 
about 1400. A sharp attack drove a pro- 
visional platoon, made up from the 88th 
Division band, off the high ground to 
the northwest, thus exposing the engi- 
neer line. The 44th was hit from the 
northeast and east by infantry armed 
with machine pistols charging in along- 
side single tanks. As American riflemen 
and machine gunners cut down the Ger- 
man assault teams, they saw their own 
ranks thinning. In this fight the cross- 
roads near Erpeldange changed hands 
four times. The assault gun platoon 
gave good support wherever the line 
was threatened, but by the end of the 
afternoon its fuel and ammunition 
were nearly gone and the gunners, after 
four days of nearly continuous action, 
were approaching complete exhaustion. 
When darkness finally came, the 44th 
withdrew with the assault guns into 
Wiltz, having lost four officers and 150 
men. This time the bridge was blown. 
On orders, the three remaining assault 
guns went back to cover the wrecked 
structure. Their fate is unknown. 

While elements of the 26th Volks 
Grenadier Division were attacking on 
the north side of the Wiltz, detachments 
of the ^th Parachute Division struck the 
American perimeter on the south and 
southeast. This timing might seem to 



FIFTH PANZER ARMY ATTACKS 28TH INFANTRY DIVISION 



209 



indicate a co-ordinated attack. In fact 
it represented Heilmann's failure to 
gain control of his division, for the or- 
ders were to bypass Wiltz. The division 
advance guard from the i^th Parachute 
Regiment (supposedly on its way to 
capture Sibret) somehow became con- 
fused, wandered away northward, and 
about 1500 struck the 687th Field Artil- 
lery Battalion, whose batteries had dis- 
placed to a road angling southeast from 
the town.^° Battery A met the tanks 
leading the German column with direct 
fire, disabled or destroyed them, and 
briefly slowed the advance toward Wiltz. 
But menaced as they were, the artil- 
lery commander could not risk his how- 
itzers further. Battery B fired its few 
remaining rounds to cover the other bat- 
teries, the battalion assembling during 
the evening at a crossroad southeast 
of Harlange. 

By nightfall the American perimeter 
had been pierced at many points and 
the defenders pushed back into the cen- 
ter of Wiltz. Most of the tanks and 
assault guns were out of action, there 
were insufficient machine guns to cover 
the final protective line, radio commun- 
ication between the desperate units was 
practically nonexistent, searchlight rays 
glancing from the low clouds lighted 
the path of the attackers, and ammuni- 
tion was running very low. 

Attempts during the evening to send a 
task force of stragglers and trains for- 
ward from the 28th Division headquar- 



^° The American infantry gave high praise to 
the 687th for its part in this fight. Colonel Strick- 
ler later said of the gunners, "a magnificent job 
by some magnificent men." Recognized as out- 
standing even in this band was S/Sgt. William J. 
Bennett of Battery C, who was awarded the DSC. 



ters at Sibret were abortive; the roads 
east to Wiltz now were blocked every 
few kilometers by enemy infantry and 
self-propelled guns. 

On the ridges which look down over 
Wiltz more Germans appeared in the 
early evening, apparently eager to be 
in at the kill. The 14th Parachute Regi- 
ment, which had been moving slowly 
westward (the $th Parachute Division 
commander ascribed its dilatory move- 
ment to the habit of attacking small 
villages in order to have billets for the 
cold December nights) , entered the 
fight via a climb onto the eastern ridge 
overlooking the town. At least a third 
of the ^th Parachute Division was finally 
engaged at Wiltz contrary to Heilmann's 
orders. 

Colonel Strickler decided to evacuate 
Wiltz by infiltration and regroup at 
Sibret, but with the Germans pressing 
in from all sides and no means of reach- 
ing his units except by runner the actual 
withdrawal would be difficult to control. 
It was his intention, however, to move 
the provisional battalion first, leaving 
the 3d Battalion to keep the escape 
exits open while the 44th Engineers 
acted as rear guard. The 687th Field Ar- 
tillery Battalion pulled out to the south- 
west and the 3d Battalion also started 
to move, under the impression that this 
was the plan. When orders finally ar- 
rived to hold in place, the 3d Battalion 
had reached a trident crossroad south- 
west of the town. After a long wait the 
battalion commanding officer. Major 
Milton, went back into Wiltz to get fur- 
ther orders; when he returned most of 
his battalion had disappeared. With the 
few troops remaining, Milton succes- 
fuUy made his way cross-country to the 
west. 



210 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 




WiLTZ 



The bulk of the provisional battalion, 
inside Wiltz, started southwest an hour 
or so before midnight, some on foot, the 
rest riding on trucks, half-tracks, and 
tank destroyers. A few hundred yards 
had been traversed when, at the first 
crossroad, the leading half-track ran into 
a patch of mines laid in front of a Ger- 
man roadblock and exploded. An un- 
identified crew of a 447 th Antiaircraft 
Artillery half-track drove straight onto 
the mines, its .50-caliber fire searching 
out the enemy riflemen. The half-track 
was demolished, but the field had been 



exploded and the covering infantry 
cleared away. 

As the column turned northwest on 
the main Bastogne highway enemy fire 
increased; some in the column turned 
back from the gantlet in hopes of finding 
another escape route by retracing theii 
steps through Wiltz. About four and a 
half miles west of the town, a second 
block was encountered and a German 
self-propelled gun lashed out at the lead 
vehicles while machine gunners blazed 
away from positions around it. A platoon 
of Negro troops came to the head of the 



FIFTH PANZER ARMY ATTACKS 28TH INFANTRY DIVISION 



211 



column and, attacking through the dark 
with grenades and bayonets, cleared the 
position. 

Only a short distance beyond, at 
a third block, fire swept into the col- 
umn from all sides. This was the end: 
shots, blazing vehicles, and screaming 
wounded. Those who could left the road, 
scattering in small parties into the dark. 
In the darkness and confusion many 
stragglers made their way into Bastogne 
and Vaux-lez-Rosieres. (Strickler made 
it to the latter point where General Cota 
placed him in charge of the defense.) 

Farther to the south the 687th Field 
Artillery Battalion was surrounded at a 
crossroad about seven miles from Wiltz. 
The gunners and their attached antiair- 
craft artillery unit made a stand with 
their carbines, Colts, and a few .50-cali- 
ber machine guns. For nearly two hours 
enemy flares methodically picked out 
targets for mortar and bullet fire, while 
the Americans were so closely beset that 
the Bofors and murderous quad mounts 
could not retaliate without cutting down 
their own people. Only three of the 
howitzers left could be withdrawn and 
losses among the cannoneers and drivers 
were high. The 44th Combat Engineers, 
the rear guard unit at Wiltz, probably 
suffered most, the enemy accounting for 



18 officers and 160 men during the final 
withdrawal. 

The fall of Wiltz ended the 28th Divi- 
sion's delaying action before Bastogne. 
Other American troops now had to take 
over the actual defense of that all-im- 
portant road center, but without the 
gallant bargain struck by the 1 10th In- 
fantry and its allied units— men for 
time— the German plans for a coup-de- 
main at Bastogne would have turned to 
accomplished fact.^^ The cost had been 
high, much higher than American units 
expected to pay at this stage of the war: 
the 110th Infantry virtually destroyed, 
the men and fighting vehicles of five 
tank companies lost, the equivalent of 
three combat engineer companies dead 
or missing, and tank destroyer, artillery, 
and miscellaneous units engulfed in this 
battle. In the last analysis the losses in- 
flicted on the enemy may have equaled 
those sustained by the Americans— cer- 
tainly the Germans paid dearly for their 
hurried frontal attacks against stone- 
walled villages and towns— but the final 
measure of success and failure would be 
in terms of hours and minutes won by 
the Americans and lost to the enemy. 

^ This gallant feat was recognized fully at the 
time by General Middleton and its importance 
later emphasized in the VIII Corps after action 
report for December 1944. 



CHAPTER IX 



The Attack by the German Left Wing 
16-20 December 



Hitler's hope of victory rode with his 
two panzer armies. He was confident 
that the Allies would not be able to re- 
act in a forceful way until these armies 
were across the Meuse and it would 
appear that he expected this reaction to 
take the form of a counterattack some- 
where on the west bank of that river. 
Under no circumstances was he pre- 
pared to diminish the main striking 
force in order to build up strong pro- 
tection for the German flanks during the 
advance east of the Meuse. The assign- 
ment of four infantry divisions to cover 
the southern flank of the assault armies 
was as far as he would go, nor could the 
numerous pleas advanced by his field 
commanders for additional strength in 
the south alter his decision one whit. 

Despite the poverty of forces allotted 
Brandenberger's Seventh Army, the 
Fuehrer was prepared, as always, to ex- 
pect the impossible. At one point in the 
planning period Hitler envisaged these 
four divisions as forming a blocking line 
all the way from the German frontier to 
Charleville on the Meuse. Both Jodl and 
Model resisted this idea, but when the 
counteroffensive began there were still 
rather vague plans afoot for employing 
the Seventh Army in a push west and 
south to form a position based on Lux- 
embourg City, Arlon, and Neufchateau. 



Hitler likewise attempted to intervene 
in the initial assault plans of the Seventh 
Army by directing that the attack would 
start as a pincers move in which one 
prong shot west out of Trier and the 
other penetrated northwest of Echter- 
nach. Jodl and Model again acted as a 
team in killing this idea, pointing out 
that the Seventh Army had neither the 
troops nor the guns to support two 
separate attacks. It is clear that through- 
out the planning phase Jodl took a 
realistic view of the limited capability 
of Brandenberger's army. After the war 
he admitted that the Wehrmachtfueh- 
rungsstab would have been satisfied to 
see the Seventh Army advance only half 
the distance between Echternach and 
Luxembourg City.^ 

When Brandenberger and his chief of 
staff, Generalmajor Rudolf Freiherr von 
Gersdorff, finally were allowed to map 
their own scheme of maneuver they 
settled on a containing mission for the 
two infantry divisions in the left corps 
(General der Infanterie Franz Beyer's 
LXXX Corps) , and an advance by the 
two infantry divisions on the right which 
comprised General der Infanterie Bap- 
tist Kniess's LXXXV Corps. Beyer's 
troops, in this final plan, had the mission 

iETHINT-51, OKW, Ardennes Offensive (Gen- 
eraloberst Alfred Jodl) . 



ATTACK BY GERMAN LEFT WING: 16-20 DECEMBER 



213 



of establishing a bridgehead at Echter- 
nach on the Sauer River, then undertak- 
ing a limited advance to the southwest. 
The LXXXV Corps was given orders to 
cross the Our River, north of its juncture 
with the Sauer, and advance on a west- 
ward axis parallel to that of the Fifth 
Panzer Army. If all went well one of the 
two divisions would come to a halt in a 
blocking position around Arlon, south of 
Bastogne. 

Brandenberger would have to rely in 
the main on his artillery if the Seventh 
Army was to hold its position at the 
shoulder of the counteroffensive against 
any strong attack from the south. One of 
the first objectives, therefore, would be 
to neutralize or destroy the American 
artillery groupments, and for this pur- 
pose the army was given a few batteries 
of the new, long-range 120-mm. guns. 
The total artillery strength available in 
the army was 319 guns and 108 rocket 
projectors. When it came to close and 
mobile support for the assault Branden- 
berger's divisions would be in a bad way; 
there were only thirty assault guns in 
the army and half of these were with 
the ^th Parachute Division on the right 
wing. 

At 0530 on the morning of 16 Decem- 
ber the guns and rocket projectors of the 
German Seventh Army opened fire, sig- 
naling the attack across the Our and 
Sauer Rivers. The sector in which the 
Seventh Army would advance, as flank 
guard for the two panzer armies carrying 
the weight of the main counteroffensive, 
was weakly held. Only small local re- 
serves were at hand to reinforce the 
vastly outnumbered American troops 
facing the four divisions under General 
Brandenberger's command. The north- 
ern limit of the Seventh Army attack 



coincided with the north boundary of 
the 109th Infantry Regiment (28th In- 
fantry Division) near Stolzembourg; its 
southern limit was roughly the same as 
the southern boundary of the 12 th In- 
fantry Regiment (4th Infantry Division) 
near the confluence of the Sauer and 
Moselle Rivers. 

Along this winding front, a distance 
of some thirty miles, the opponents 
would be matched at the first shock 
approximately as follows. On the north 
wing of the Seventh Army the $th Para- 
chute Division would cross the Our and 
strike the 2d Battalion of the 109th In- 
fantry. The boundary between the 109th 
and 110th ran obliquely, however, and 
in consequence the ^th Parachute 
would shortly engage troops of the latter 
regiment. Next in line on the Our the 
3$2d Folks Grenadier Division would 
cross into the zone held by the 3d Bat- 
talion of the 109th. South of the village 
of Wallendorf, where the Our flows into 
the Sauer, the lySth Folks Grenadier 
Division would push into the narrow 
segment of the Sauer front held by the 
60th Armored Infantry Battalion of the 
9th Armored Division (-), then fan out 
against the left flank of the 12th Infantry. 
The 212th Folks Grenadier Division, 
acting as the southern pivot for the entire 
German counteroffensive, would cross 
the Sauer in the Echternach sector and 
drive head on against the 12th Infantry.^ 
{Map F) 

^ The chief German source for the Seventh Army 
operations is MS # A-876, Ardennes Offensive of 
Seventh Army, 16 December 1944-25 January 1945 
(General der Panzertruppcn Erich Branden- 
berger) . The corps accounts are in MSS # 
B-030, LXXXV Corps, 1 December 1944-10 Janu- 
ary 1945 (General der Infanterie Baptist Kniess) 
and B-081, LXXX Corps, 13 September 1944-23 
March 1945, Part Two (General der Infanterie 
Dr. Franz Beyer). The individual divisions are 



214 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



The lopth Infantry Defense on the 
Sauer and Our Rivers 
16-20 December 

The 109th Infantry, led by Lt. Col. 
James E. Rudder, a former Ranger com- 
mander, was close to full strength, al- 
though, like the rest of the 28th Divi- 
sion, its rifle companies were filled by 
replacements with limited experience 
and training. The division commander 
had considered that the enemy might 
make a "distracting" attack toward Die- 
kirch and Ettelbruck, in an attempt to 
cut the road and rail lines running north 
from the city of Luxembourg, and had 
disposed the 109th accordingly. On the 
division south flank, the 3d Battalion 
(Lt. Col. Jim H. McCoy) was allotted 
a four-mile front, but had concentrated 
men and weapons in an almost contin- 
uous 3,000-yard defense line along the 
heights in the triangle formed by the 
Our and Sauer Rivers which overlooked 
the valley road west to Ettelbruck. On 
this road the 1st Battalion (Lt. Col. 
H. R. Williams) lay in reserve at Die- 
kirch, with two field artillery battalions, 
the 107 th and 108th, emplaced close to 
that town. The 2d Battalion sector to 
the north was over five miles in width. 
In this weak portion of the line, defense 
was based on two strongpoints of rifle 
company strength, one on a ridge road 
about a mile and a half west of Vianden 

covered in MSS # A-930, A-931, 212th Volks 
Grenadier Division— Ardennes, 16 December 1944-25 
January 1945 (Generalleutnant Franz Sensfuss) ; 
B-023 (Heilmann) ; B-067, j}2d Volks Grenadier 
Division, 16 December 1944-25 January 1945 (Gen- 
eralmajor Erich Schmidt) ; B-073 212th Volks 
Grenadier Division, Ardennes (Generalleutnant 
Franz Sensfuss) ; and P-032f, Ardennes Project 
(Generalmajor Hugo DempwolfE). LIII Corps' KTB 
covers the first hours of action but ends with 17 
December. 



and the Our River, the other at Fiihren 
about a mile from the river. These 
strongpoints were nearly two miles 
apart; behind them the third rifle com- 
pany was located in reserve at Branden- 
burg with one howitzer battery to give 
support. Some distance back from the 
river the 2d Battalion (Maj. William J. 
Maroney) maintained a series of seven 
outposts watching the German fortifica- 
tions on the eastern bank. 

During the two nights prior to 16 
December the ^th Parachute Division 
moved its regiments into these east bank 
fortifications and the extensive woods 
which lay just to the rear. The ^th Para- 
chute Division had its full complement 
of officers and men, but lacked its anti- 
tank battalion (which had lost much 
equipment to air attack en route from 
Holland) and its mortar battalion. Colo- 
nel Heilmann, who had recently taken 
over the division, was not too sanguine as 
to its ability or state of training as a unit. 
He relied on the i^th Parachute Regi- 
ment, the $th Parachute Engineer Bat- 
talion, and the attached iith Assault 
Gun Brigade, which were well trained 
and motorized, to furnish the main 
striking force. The division artillery 
lacked the motors to accompany a rapid 
advance, and fire support would be given 
by the assault guns and a regiment of 
Volks artillery. The latter was horse- 
drawn but expected to motorize with 
captured American vehicles. 

Only a few days before the attack 
Heilmann warned Model that the ^th 
Parachute Division was only a Class IV 
outfit, but Model, who by now must have 
been surfeited with complaints on lack 
of equipment and insufficient training, 
merely replied that success would be won 
by the paratroopers' "usual audacity." 



ATTACK BY GERMAN LEFT WING: 16-20 DECEMBER 



215 



Perhaps Model did not care to recognize 
that the paratroopers in this once elite 
division had been replaced by meagerly 
trained Luftwaffe ground troops and 
Navy battalions. Lacking experienced 
fighting men and the heavy weapons 
requisite for close support, Heilmann in- 
structed his line officers to avoid pitched 
battles for defended positions. After all, 
the goal to be reached by the night of 
16 December was near the town of Wiltz 
some ten miles west of the Our. There- 
fore the ^th Parachute Division plan 
called for a quick and unopposed cross- 
ing at the Our; a bridge to be in at Roth 
by midafternoon of the first day; a rapid 
advance past the villages where the weak 
American forces were located; and a 
lightning stroke to force the crossing sites 
near Wiltz. 

If this plan were successful the ^th 
Parachute Engineer Battalion would 
ferry the assault companies across the 
Our, then join the advance and reach the 
Wiltz sector with ferrying equipment by 
the end of the first day. The 14 th Para- 
chute Regiment had orders to cross the 
Our in the north near Stolzembourg, 
drive past Putscheid and seize a crossing 
point on the Wiltz someplace west of 
Hoscheid. To the south the i$th Para- 
chute Regiment was intended to cross 
the Our at Roth (named as the main 
divisional bridge site) , seize the high 
ground near Vianden, then establish a 
bridgehead over the Sure at Bourscheid. 
The task of erasing such American units 
as might be left in the towns and villages 
was given the i^th Parachute Regiment, 
which had no transport and would be 
brought forward with the bulk of the 
heavy weapons once the Our bridge was 
in. Since the Seventh Army had ordered 
each of its divisions to commence the 



attack with only two battalions, spear- 
headed by single shock companies, the 
initial transfer to the far bank of the Our 
would be a gradual process (and would, 
as it proved, lead the Americans to be- 
lieve that the first Germans across were 
only patrols) . Nonetheless, Heilmann 
hoped that the vehicles of the i^th 
Parachute Regiment and the self- 
propelled '75-mm. guns of the iith As- 
sault Gun Brigade would be across the 
Our River before the close of the first 
day, for he counted on these two units 
to lead the advance to the division ob- 
jective south of Bastogne. 

The second German division assem- 
bled opposite the 109th Infantry was the 
Volks Grenadier Division (Col. 
Erich Schmidt) . The boundary point be- 
tween the latter and its northern neigh- 
bor was fixed about a half-mile south of 
Roth, but for some reason the precise 
extension of the boundary line west of 
the Our had not been settled. As a result 
complications would arise once the $th 
Parachute Division and the 3$2d Volks 
Grenadier Division advanced beyond the 
river. The ^$2d had full ranks, mostly 
from the Luftwaffe and Navy, but lacked 
training and veteran noncoms. Its artil- 
lery regiment contained four battalions, 
but was mostly horse-drawn and woefully 
short of radio equipment. There were 
only six assault guns in the divisional 
company. On the night of 12 December 
the ^$2d pulled out of the long line be- 
tween Stolzembourg and Bollendorf 
which then comprised the division front 
and re-formed in the woods east of the 
Our, leaving only a small security force 
to screen the movements of the divisions 
moving up on the right and left. When 
the 109th Infantry sent a large combat 
patrol across at Vianden on the morning 



216 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



of the 14th, the Americans therefore 
found no enemy. 

The night before the attack the ^^2d 
marched back to the new and narrow 
sector on the river from which the jump- 
off would be made: the ^i^th Regiment 
on the right, the ^i6th on the left, and 
the 914th, which had furnished the cov- 
ering force, in reserve. Thus poised, the 
assault regiments would cross the Our on 
either side of Gentingen, with orders to 
bypass defended villages, seize the dom- 
inant heights in the Sauer-Our triangle, 
and drive as far as the Sauer bridges at 
Ettelbruck— all this on the first day of the 
attack. In total, then, two German divi- 
sions and the metal of the LXXXV 
Corps' artillery were to be thrown 
against the 109th Infantry and neighbor- 
ing troops of the 1 loth Infantry in the 
first hours of the great counterofEensive. 

There were nearly three hundred 
tubes and projectors in the LXXXV 
Corps groupment which opened fire at 
0530 on 16 December. These pieces were 
laid on targets deep in the 109th In- 
fantry zone: notably Diekirch, Basten- 
dorf, the ridge road running north from 
Ettelbruck across the rear of the 28th 
Division, and the command posts of the 
two artillery battalions. It would seem 
that the German gunners were firing by 
the map (there had been numerous 
changes of position in this area which 
were unknown to German intelligence) 
and the opening barrage shortly dwin- 
dled away to occasional salvos without 
inflicting much damage or disrupting 
communications. 'With the first sound of 
gunfire the assault companies pushed 
their rubber boats into the Our, only 
some fifty feet wide, and the engineers 
began swinging the portable infantry 



bridges into position over the shallow 
but turbulent river. 

The 109th outposts on the far bank 
of the Our could see little in the half- 
light of the foggy morning. Some were 
quietly bypassed as the German shock 
companies moved quickly inland. 
Others, closer to the crossing sites, were 
assaulted by small detachments. Thus 
the 5</z Parachute Division engineers 
wiped out the 2d Battalion outpost in 
the chateau ruins at Vianden before any 
warning could be sent out. The Amer- 
icans fired flares onto the east bank in an 
attempt to discover the purpose be- 
hind the heavy concentration of 
German artillery, but no certain 
word of enemy troops reached the 
109th command post at Ettelbruck 
until about 0900 when Company B re- 
ported that a 20-man patrol had as- 
saulted the outpost near Hosdorf. This 
advance detachment of the 916th Regi- 
ment had hit head on into the contin- 
uous and strongly defended right flank 
position of the 109th Infantry on the 
heights at the Sauer-Our triangle. By 
this time, however, the German advance 
parties farther north had passed through 
the weak outpost line and were gathering 
strength and momentum. 

The situation in the 109th area devel- 
oped as follows. The 14th Regiment, 
composing the right of the ^th Parachute 
Division advance, was moving along the 
boundary between the iioth and the 
109th without much opposition. In ac- 
tual fact this regiment would "lean" on 
the neighboring XLVII Panzer Corps, 
which had struck into the center of the 
28th Division, and through most of the 
day lagged while the Panzer Corps 
opened the way. To the south the i^th 



ATTACK BY GERMAN LEFT WING: 16-20 DECEMBER 



217 



Regiment took advantage of the wide 
gap between the two strongpoints 
manned by Companies E and F of the 
109th, its leading battalion marching 
without a fight to Walsdorf, an unoccu- 
pied village about two miles from the 
river. This move particularly threatened 
Company F, which was on the ridge road 
three miles north of Bastendorf (the 2d 
Battalion command post) , and which 
represented the northern linchpin of the 
regiment. At 1000 Company G came up 
from reserve at Brandenburg and was 
put on the right of Company F. 

For some reason the German force at 
Walsdorf did not press its advantage. 
The forward units of the i^th Regiment 
were out of contact with the rest of the 
^th Parachute Division, and the regi- 
mental commander had difficulty in 
holding his outfit together. At dusk, how- 
ever, a second German battalion had 
arrived at Walsdorf and was committed 
to the southwest in a drive toward Bran- 
denburg, slipping through a wooded de- 
pression between Companies F and G. 
Colonel Rudder dispatched Company C 
from the reserve battalion at Diekirch to 
check this penetration. But the company 
reached Brandenburg shortly before 
midnight without encountering the Ger- 
mans. 

The i^th Regiment drive through 
Walsdorf marked the most extensive 
penetration of the 109th Infantry posi- 
tions on this first day. Farther south bat- 
tle had been joined in bitter but incon- 
clusive fighting. Company E, in Fiihren, 
was bypassed by the German first thrust 
to Walsdorf. This crossroads village lay 
athwart the main road leading west from 
the Roth bridgehead and furnished ob- 
servation for the American batteries 
firing on the crossing site. About 1100, 



detachments from the i^th Regiment in 
the north turned and brought Fiihren 
under small arms fire. Radio communi- 
cation with the menaced company was 
lost three hours later, but direct assault 
failed to dislodge the Americans. 

Company E was further isolated by the 
interposition of the pi^th Regiment be- 
tween Fiihren and the 3d Battalion. The 
pi^th had crossed the Our near Bettel 
and moved swiftly and unopposed up 
the draws through the 2,000-yard gap be- 
tween Rudder's 2d and 3d Battalions. 
Shortly after 1000 the German advance 
guard was firing its burp guns into Bat- 
tery A, 108th Field Artillery, east of 
Diekirch. An hour or so before, the 
American gunners had seen figures mov- 
ing through the fog but mistook them 
for Americans. By noon the pi^th Regi- 
ment held Longsdorf and Tandel, the 
latter two miles from the Our, and had 
patrols to the south only two thousand 
yards from the main supply road linking 
Diekirch and Bettendorf on which the 
3d Battalion, deployed facing the Our, 
depended. 

Colonel Rudder called on the meager 
armored reserve allotted him by Cota 
(the 1st Platoon of Company C, 707th 
Tank Battalion) , sending it north from 
Diekirch about 1300 to check the pi^th 
thrust. With the tanks went Company A, 
shortly followed by Company B, the last 
of the reserve battalion. The fight 
through the afternoon was hard and the 
Americans made little progress, but 
shortly before nightfall the counter- 
attack forged ahead; Company A and the 
medium tanks came to the edge of Longs- 
dorf and Company B occupied the high 
ground between that village and Tan- 
del.3 

"During the advance by Company A, 2d Lt. 



218 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



While the American counterattack 
pushed in against the south flank o£ the 
pi^th that regiment continued to work 
its way southwest through the darkness, 
establishing an advance position on the 
ridge overlooking Bastendorf. The ex- 
sailors who comprised this regiment had 
moved fast and gained ground, but their 
commander had been wounded, their 
flanks were open, and communications 
with the rest of the ^526 were uncertain. 
In fact this leading contingent of the 
pi^th had shot its bolt and for the next 
couple of days would take little part in 
the battle. Nonetheless the Seventh 
Army commander was well pleased with 
the advance made by his right wing. 

The pi6th Regiment found the going 
much more difficult than its northern sis- 
ter regiment. Its opponent, the 3d Bat- 
talion, was deployed on what for this 
sector was a narrow front, well dug in on 
the heights overlooking the Our and 
with its right flank protected by the 
Sauer. The initial German assault near 
Hosdorf had provided the 109th with the 
first confirmation of an enemy advance 
west of the Our, but accomplished little 
else. From excellent observation on the 
heights the 107th and 108th Field Artil- 
lery Battalions brought the howitzers 
positioned near Diekirch into play, pin- 
ning the German shock troops to the 
river bank where they remained for the 
rest of the day. True, one arm of the 
S$2d was reaching north of the 3d Bat- 



Samuel Leo silenced two enemy machine guns 
with grenades and killed five Germans with his 
rifle. He was given the DSC. On this day Pvt. 
J. W. Jones made a lone attack upon a machine 
gun which was firing directly at him; he destroyed 
the weapon and its crew but then was cut down 
by a second machine gun. Jones was awarded the 
DSC. 



talion, but the latter still blocked the 
Sauer valley road and the direct ap- 
proach to Diekirch and the Ettelbruck 
bridges. 

The 109th Infantry had held its posi- 
tions in this first day, and Rudder saw no 
cause for alarm since he occupied good 
terrain. The hard fact remained that the 
German infantry, masked by the acci- 
dents of the rugged Our country, had 
achieved considerable success in exploit- 
ing the gaps between the village strong- 
points. Also, the German armored ve- 
hicles and heavy weapons, which had 
been observed just at dark assembling 
across the river facing Fiihren, had yet to 
be encountered. The 109th commander, 
under orders from General Cota that 
"nobody comes back," now had to re- 
store contact between his companies and 
get his regiment in position to meet the 
next enemy move. The regiment could 
expect little aid, for most of the slim 
reserves of the 28th Division would go 
to the hard-pressed 110th Infantry in the 
center. But the 109th had one paramount 
advantage in that the solid anchoring of 
its right flank on the natural barrier pro- 
vided by the Sauer permitted some free- 
dom to concentrate on restoring the situ- 
ation to the left. Colonel Rudder's 
reserves consisted of Company A, 103d 
Engineer Battalion; Company C, 707th 
Tank Battalion; the towed 3-inch guns 
of Company A, 630th Tank Destroyer 
Battalion; and his regimental antitank 
company. By midnight a platoon of en- 
gineers and some tank destroyers were 
moving up to reinforce the attack 
through Longsdorf to relieve the com- 
pany at Fiihren. An additional tank 
platoon was ready to add weight to a 
second thrust toward Fiihren by way of 
Tandel. 



ATTACK BY GERMAN LEFT WING: 16-20 DECEMBER 



219 



At 0240 on the morning o£ 17 Decem- 
ber the division commander phoned 
Colonel Rudder and made an unex- 
pected demand on his reserves. What 
had happened was this. On the pre- 
vious evening the force from the ^th 
Parachute Division which had been mov- 
ing along the boundary between the 
109th and 1 10th reached the primary 
ridge road (known to the Americans as 
the Skyline Drive) which extended lat- 
erally across the 28th Division sector 
from Weiswampach to Ettelbruck. The 
^th Parachute had rafted some light field 
pieces and vehicles over the Our and a 
few self-propelled guns that had negoti- 
ated a way across on top of a weir near 
Vianden were sent down the road to 
Hoscheid. Meanwhile the left battalion 
of the 14th Regiment had been ordered 
to take Hoscheid. This movement in the 
dark appeared to pose a threat to cut 
off the 109th with an attack straight 
south to Ettelbruck. 

General Cota ordered the 109th com- 
mander to get a platoon of tanks, mount 
an infantry platoon on them, and "help 
out up north where things are getting 
hot." Rudder immediately dispatched 
this force, plus a few engineers, north- 
ward on the Skyline Drive. In the mean- 
time, however, the 2d Battalion of the 
14th Parachute Regiment had cut the 
road south of Hoscheid and the relief 
force was checked within a thousand 
yards of the village by enemy fire con- 
centrated on a sharp bend in the road. 
Hoscheid was garrisoned by part of the 
iioth Infantry Antitank Company, six 
medium tanks mounting 105-mm. 
howitzers (which the 707th Tank Bat- 
talion had organized as an assault gun 
platoon) and three regular mediums. 
Through most of the 17 th the de- 



fenders held on against infantry attack 
from the west and German assault 
guns attacking from the north on the 
Skyline Drive. Finally, about 1530, the 
Hoscheid garrison received orders to 
fight its way out and join the relief 
force. These orders came too late, for 
an hour and a half earlier this task force 
had been ordered to the aid of a bat- 
tery of the 107 th Field Artillery north 
of Diekirch. In Hoscheid the tanks were 
running low on ammunition. When 
night fell they loaded on the foot soldiers 
and made a dash south to the 687 th 
Field Artillery command post at Lipper- 
scheid, where they found that the bat- 
teries were in process of displacing 
across the Wiltz River. The Hoscheid de- 
fenders joined the withdrawal westward 
and subsequently reached the town of 
Wiltz, there taking part in the defense 
of the 28th Division command post. The 
fight at Hoscheid, German prisoners 
later reported, had cost the assaulting 
battalion at least a hundred dead but, 
more, it had helped delay the 14th Para- 
chute Regiment advance to the Wiltz 
River. 

In the 109th sector proper the battle 
during 17 December turned on attempts 
to relieve Company E (Capt. R. W. 
Cureton) at the crossroads in Fiihren. 
The enemy was determined to take this 
village, located as it was on the bound- 
ary between the ^th Parachute Division 
and the 3^2d Volks Grenadier Division. 
Fiihren was attacked during the day by 
troops of the i^th Parachute Regiment, 
the pi^th Regiment, and the 914th Reg- 
iment. As might be expected there was 
little co-ordination in this assault; fur- 
thermore the Germans were forced to 
divert much strength to meet the twin- 
pronged American counterattack mov- 



220 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



ing on Fiihren from the south. At day- 
break Company A and its tank platoon 
resumed attempts Lo break through 
Longsdorf and open the road to Fiihren, 
but by 0845 mortar and machine gun 
fire had pinned down the infantry five 
hundred yards short of Longsdorf. Com- 
pany B, now missing the platoon sent 
with the Hoscheid task force, moved a 
short distance along the road between 
Tandel and Fiihren but likewise was 
checked. The commander of Company 
C, 707th Tank Battalion, took two of his 
tanks from Longsdorf to aid the infantry 
beyond Tandel, but a strong German 
patrol slipped through a draw lying be- 
tween Companies A and B and am- 
bushed the tanks. 

This German force, finally amounting 
to a battalion of infantry and two tanks, 
moved south during the morning until 
it met the 109th Antitank Company, 
which was dug in with a few engineers 
and a single 40-mm. Bofors where the 
Tandel and Longsdorf roads met. The 
American 57-mm. antitank guns scored 
"many hits" on the German tanks, but 
as usual without effect, and two of the 
guns were lost. The enemy infantry 
proved more vulnerable, twenty-five be- 
ing captured and a large number killed. 

Although the penetration was 
checked, the dual attempt to relieve 
Fiihren made no headway. On the east 
road Company A dwindled under bitter 
fire. By midafternoon it numbered only 
twenty-five men and an artillery ob- 
server commander as the single officer 
left. Company B again started up the 
Tandel-Fiihren road, but the Germans 
swept the road with bazooka and burp 
gun fire from the ridges on either side 
forcing the company to withdraw to 
Tandel and ask for more infantry. All 



this while Company E had been under 
attack in Fiihren, but with its own fire 
greatly thickened by accurate artillery 
concentrations the company held the en- 
emy at bay. Late in the day Company 
E radioed for ammunition and rations. 
Colonel Rudder ordered a patrol sent 
from Tandel under cover of night to 
bring ammunition, but it failed to reach 
Fiihren. 

At other points the enemy strength 
increased as the day wore on. The 3$2d 
Volks Grenadier Division succeeded in 
crossing a few tanks and assault guns, 
as well as more light artillery. With 
these heavy weapons the advance guard 
of the reserve regiment, the 914th, ap- 
peared on the west bank to take a hand 
in the fight. On the north flank of the 
109th Infantry a tank platoon attack east 
of Brandenburg had restored the con- 
nection between Companies F and G 
early in the morning. But as the day 
wore on German infantry and assault 
guns poured into the Our bridgehead 
and across the open flanks of the two 
companies. Company F knocked out two 
assault guns in a ^th Parachute column 
with bazooka fire. Near Brandenburg 
the American tank platoon destroyed 
four assault guns belonging to the 552^. 
But the German march to the west con- 
tinued. 

In the 3d Battalion sector, on the ex- 
treme right flank, the enemy achieved 
little success during the day and Ger- 
man reports speak of "bloody fighting." 
Having failed to take the heights by 
frontal assault, the 916th Regiment 
started a flanking attack along the south 
bank of the Sauer, moving for this pur- 
pose into the zone of the 2'j6th Volks 
Grenadier Division, which thus far had 
been held in check around Reisdorf and 



ATTACK BY GERMAN LEFT WING: 16-20 DECEMBER 



221 



Bigelbach. Although there were no 
American troops in the Sauer valley, 
observers on the heights were able to 
follow every move of the ^i6th. One 
infantry officer, ist Lt. E. L. Peer, 
Company L, adjusted the fire of the sup- 
porting howitzers "so effectively that an 
estimated enemy infantry battalion was 
destroyed." With good wire and radio 
communication, excellent observation 
and a wealth of targets, the two artillery 
battalions were able to fire 3,123 rounds 
on 1 7 December, contributing particular- 
ly to the defense of Fiihren and the 
checkmate of the flanking movement by 
the pi6th. 

As the day progressed, however, the 
enemy spread through the rear areas 
of the 109th and menaced the gun posi- 
tions west of the Diekirch-Hoscheid 
road. Battery A, 107th Field Artillery, 
for example, had been harassed by fire 
from small groups of Germans since 
the previous midnight. By midaftemoon 
the 2d Battalion of the pi^th Regiment, 
which had bypassed Bastendorf earlier, 
was pressing in on that battery and Bat- 
tery A, io8th Field Artillery, em- 
placed nearby. The gunners, fighting as 
infantry, first beat off the approaching 
Germans while a neighboring battery 
blasted the woods east of the road in 
which the enemy assembled. 

Hard pressed as the day wore on, the 
gunners were relieved by a series of 
friendly sorties. Two motor carriages 
mounting quadruple .50-caliber machine 
guns (the Mi 6) from the 447th Anti- 
aircraft Artillery Battalion were put on 
the Diekirch-Hoscheid road. One was 
crippled by enemy fire, its driver and 
loader wounded by a rifle grenade when 
it drove squarely into the files of Ger- 
man infantry on the road, guns blazing; 



but the other fought its way north to 
the beleaguered batteries. Lt. Col. Jairies 
C. Rosborough, commanding officer of 
the 107th Field Artillery, meanwhile 
gathered a scratch force and with it 
fought through to the howitzer posi- 
tions. (Rosborough was awarded the Dis- 
tinguished Service Cross for gallantry in 
this action.) About the same time the 
tanks which had been in the Hoscheid 
task force were ordered into the fight 
and rolled from the north in on the 
enemy. The batteries were saved, but 
the positions from which the gunners 
had given such heartening support to 
the 109th were no longer tenable. 

At the close of the second day the 
109th still was holding tenaciously but 
against increasingly heavy attack. AH its 
reserves were committed, and the larger 
part of the attached company from the 
630th Tank Destroyer Battalion had 
been called away to defend the 28th Di- 
vision command post at Wiltz. The gap 
between the 2d and 3d Battalions in the 
Longsdorf-Fiihren area had been 
widened while the enemy column in the 
north had driven deep between the 
109th and 1 loth. 

The German attacks suddenly gained 
strength on the night of 17 December. 
For two days the $th Parachute Divi- 
sion had operated with only such 
heavy weapons as could be ferried 
across the Our or maneuvered over the 
Vianden wier, because for two days trou- 
ble had dogged the bridge builders at 
Roth. The selection of this particular 
site had been forced upon the German 
commander because it was the only point 
at which the river had moderate banks 
that could be reached by a passable ap- 
proach road. On the east side of the 
river, however, American bombers had 



222 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



left a large bomb crater in the road 
close to the Our. No work could be done 
to fill the crater until the attack actually 
began on 16 December. Bridging equip- 
ment promised by the Seventh Army 
had arrived late and inexperienced en- 
gineers had further delayed the con- 
struction. American artillery and mortar 
fire also played its part in harassing the 
bridge builders. 

Finally, in the early evening of 17 
December, the bridge was completed, 
and the bulk of the assault gun brigade, 
the antitank battalion, and the vehicles 
of the i^th Parachute Regiment began 
to roll, the division artillery and trains 
lining up to await their turn. The 14th 
Parachute Regiment, badly disorganized 
in the series of village fights at Hoscheid 
and elsewhere, was pulled together and 
sent marching to the Clerf River. Here, 
during the night, the 14 th made a cross- 
ing near Kautenbach, opening the way 
to Wiltz and the west for the main forces 
of the division. The higher German 
headquarters no longer expected any 
concerted resistance in front of the ^th 
Parachute Division and attached its im- 
mediate reserve, the 13th Parachute 
Regiment, to the neighboring division 
on the south. 

This division, the 3^2(1 Folks Gren- 
adier, also had met obstacles at the Our 
River. Bridge work at Gentingen went 
badly on the first day. Men and materiel 
were lost when American howitzers and 
mortars found the range. Handling 
bridge sections in the swift current and 
on the muddy river bottom was difficult 
enough without this steady fire. The 
approach roads on both sides of the river 
were steep, curved, and mud slick. The 
5J2d had been promised a Todt Bri- 
gade for work on the roads and at the 



bridge, but the labor brigade never ap- 
peared. A wooden support bridge was 
finished at Gentingen late on 17 De- 
cember, but the transfer of artillery and 
motor vehicles would be very slow and 
only a portion of the division's heavy 
weapons were west of the river by the 
next morning. 

Troops of the 914th Regiment had 
arrived in the bridgehead late in the 
day with orders to form a link between 
the pi^th and pi6th, now widely sep- 
arated, and to mop up the pockets of 
American resistance wherever found. 
But there was no contact between the 
three German regiments when daylight 
ended. The chief problem, however, was 
not so much that of establishing a homo- 
geneous front as of jarring the Americans 
loose from the heights at the Sauer-Our 
triangle. The defenders at this point 
not only had stopped the left regiment 
of the 3^2d Folks Grenadier Division 
but also had helped check the right reg- 
iment of the neighboring 2y6th Folks 
Grenadier Division by laying fire across 
the Sauer valley. 

Resupply and evacuation were the 
chief concern of the 109th Infantry on 
the night of 17-18 December, particu- 
larly the problem of getting ammuni- 
tion to the tanks and Companies E and 
F. Carrying parties were used and tanks 
employed to bring up supplies and evac- 
uate the wounded. The 2d Platoon of 
the 7o7th's Company C, supporting 
Companies F and G of the 109th, was 
refueled and resupplied during the 
night. But the 1st and 3d Platoons could 
not be reached because of enemy patrol 
activity. 

When day broke on 18 December the 
109 th Infantry was no longer in contact 
with its northern foe, the ^th Parachute 



ATTACK BY GERMAN LEFT WING: 16-20 DECEMBER 



223 



Division, because this division, under 
peremptory orders from its commander, 
had continued the westward advance 
through the night, the forward troops 
defiling into the Kautenbach bridge- 
head. The 3$2d Folks Grenadier Divi- 
sion was still on hand; it was approach- 
ing full strength west of the Our and for 
the first time could employ a number 
of its heavier supporting weapons in 
the attack. At dawn the pi6th Regiment 
launched the strongest assault yet lev- 
eled at the 3d Battalion position on the 
109th right flank, striking hard under 
cover of smoke to break through at the 
left of the battalion northwest of Hos- 
dorf. Early in the assault a platoon from 
Company K was captured when its am- 
munition gave out. Company E, which 
had served to deflect some pressure from 
the 3d Battalion by its stubborn defense 
at Fiihren, was no longer in the fight. 
No word had come from Fiihren since 
2300 the previous evening. Company B, 
sent up the Tandel road to reach Fiihren, 
had paused at about the same hour 
only a short distance from the village.* 
The next morning a patrol with a tank 
and a jeep reached the edge of Fiihren, 
but found the company command post 
burned and no sign of American troops. 

The loss of Company E and the pla- 
toon from Company K made the 3d Bat- 
talion position precarious. Meanwhile 
the twenty-five men left in Company A 
had withdrawn from the Longsdorf road 
under cover of indirect fire laid down 
by two tanks which formed a rear guard. 
The tankers were shown how to give 



''The 109th Infantry AAR says of this incident: 
"It is believed that if Company B had been more 
aggressive in their attack to Fouhren [Fuhren], 
they could have relieved the pressure on Company 
E, permitting them to conduct a withdrawal." 



indirect fire by a forward observer from 
the 107th Field Artillery Battalion. The 
remnants of Company A joined the reg- 
imental antitank company at road junc- 
tion 206, the avenue by which enemy 
vehicles had to move to cut the supply 
road to the 3d Battalion, with orders 
to "hold that road." But in the north 
there was no longer any question that 
Companies F and G could hold on, iso- 
lated as they were, along the road be- 
yond Bastendorf. About 0900 the divi- 
sion chief of staff gave Colonel Rudder 
permission to withdraw the two com- 
panies for use as a reserve. Under cover 
of the attached tank platoon roadblock 
at Bastendorf the companies fell back 
to Diekirch. 

During the afternoon the situation of 
the 109th Infantry rapidly deteriorated. 
At 1300 two Mark VI tanks appeared 
on the Longsdorf road and with infantry 
assistance attacked the vital road junc- 
tion 206. In the fight that followed the 
antitank company lost all six of its re- 
maining 57-mm. guns, one of the three 
tanks left with Company A was knocked 
out by a direct hit, and a breakthrough 
threatened momentarily. At 1410, while 
the fight was in progress Colonel Rudder 
asked for and received permission to pull 
his regiment together on the high ground 
around Diekirch; this withdrawal, how- 
ever, already was in progress. Forty tons 
of supplies and the hospital units were 
moved first. At 1300 the tank platoon 
at the battery positions on the Hoscheid 
road hooked up the artillery pieces and 
started south. By then the 2d Battalion 
was moving from Bastendorf, under 
small arms fire "from all directions." 
The 3d Battalion, last out, made its way 
west along the Bettendorf road, which 
already was under fire. During the late 



224 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



evening the assembly of the regiment at 
Diekirch was completed, the 3d Battal- 
ion and engineers blowing the bridges 
at Bettendorf over which the enemy 
might pass to the south bank of the 
Sauer. With the river momentarily se- 
cure at its back the regiment dug in 
along an arc facing out from Diekirch. 

But the 109th was no longer strong 
enough to man a continuous defensive 
line. Five hundred officers and men had 
been lost in the three-day battle; of the 
heavy infantry weapons only one section 
of 81 -mm. mortars and four sections of 
heavy machine guns were left; the anti- 
tank company had no pieces; the tank 
company badly needed fuel and main- 



tenance. But in these three days the reg- 
iment had held the enemy short of 
the Ettelbruck crossing and prevented 
the planned concentration of the 3$2d 
Volks Grenadier Division south of the 
Sauer. That the 109th had used every 
weapon at its disposal is shown by the 
ammunition expenditure for these days: 
280,000 rounds of small arms ammuni- 
tion, 5,000 rounds of mortar, 3,000 gre- 
nades, and 300 bazooka rounds. That 
the 109th had disrupted the German 
plans is witnessed by the fact that the 
commander of the 3$ 2d was unable to 
get his division in hand until 19 De- 
cember, while the attack in force could 
not be resumed until 20 December. 




Ettelbruck 



ATTACK BY GERMAN LEFT WING: 16-20 DECEMBER 



225 



The 109th Infantry, however, had 
been forced back fanwise away from the 
rest of the gSth Division. Its closest 
friendly forces were those of CCA, 9th 
Armored Division, now south and east 
of the 109th across the Sauer. Colonel 
Rudder, still under orders to fight for 
time and space, was enjoined by General 
Cota on the morning of 19 December 
"not to recoil any further than the Sure 
[Sauer] River." The logth, fortunately, 
was given a few hours to rest and better 
its defenses before the enemy continued 
the advance to Vv^ipe out the Diekirch- 
Ettelbruck bridgehead. 

Early in the afternoon German guns 
opened up on the Diekirch positions 
(the artillery regiment of the 552 d had 
just come into position west of the Our) , 
and those elements of the pi^th and 
pi6th Regiments which the 3^2d com- 
mander could personally gather were 
thrown into a series of piecemeal as- 
saults. For two hours the fight went back 
and forth,^ involving the gd Battalion 
on the Diekirch-Hoscheid road and 
the 3d Battalion aligned on the ridge 
east of Diekirch. Schmidt, the German 
division commander, tried to lead 
his troops forward and was seriously 
wounded. When night came the fight 
flared up once more, small groups of 
the enemy probing for weak points while 
artillery fire and searchlights were em- 
ployed to guide the attack and distract 
the defenders. Colonel Rudder phoned 
the 28th Division chief of staff about 
goOo, told him that the 109th might be 

When the antitank company was forced to pull 
back to a new position, Capt. Paul F. Gaynor re- 
mained alone to cover the withdrawal. He killed 
eight Germans with his carbine, wounded several 
others, then made a dash under fire across open 
ground and rejoined his company. He was awarded 
the DSC. 



cut off and surrounded, and suggested 
that he should pull his regiment back 
to the southwest across the Sauer to cover 
the left flank of the 9th Armored Divi- 
sion. General Cota agreed that a further 
withdrawal could be made but in- 
structed Rudder to stay in his own zone 
of action, that is, to make a withdrawal 
to the west. 

Fifteen minutes later the 28th Divi- 
sion commander got in touch with 
General Middleton, the VIII Corps com- 
mander, and presented the alternatives 
now facing the 109th Infantry. The 
109th "could fight it out . . . and that 
would be the end"; the regiment could 
tie in closely with the gth Armored force 
and withdraw to the south; or the 109th 
and the gth Armored force could be 
pulled back toward Bastogne. General 
Middleton had just finished speaking 
to Maj. Gen. John W. Leonard, the gth 
Armored commander, and had promised 
a battalion from the incoming 8oth In- 
fantry Division to fill the gap between 
Leonard and Rudder. (General Brad- 
ley or Maj. Gen. William H. H. Morris, 
Jr., the provisional corps commander, 
later canceled this move so as to keep 
the 8oth together.) Middleton therefore 
told Cota that the 109th was to hold, 
but if forced back it should retire to the 
west behind the Alzette, a stream line 
directly south of Ettelbruck. These 
orders were passed on to the 109th. How- 
ever the final instructions to Rudder rec- 
ognized the need for reliance on the 
commander on the ground; he was to 
"act according to the situation." In point 
of fact the 109 th already was on the 
march west through Ettelbruck. 
General Leonard still expected that the 
109th would fall back to the south and 
join the gth Armored (the logth was 



226 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



not yet under his command) , but Rud- 
der was in contact with the enemy and 
could not risk the disorganization at- 
tendant on a change in plans at this 
point. 

The withdrawal itself was a success, 
despite the intense interdiction fire laid 
down by the Germans, fire that cost 
thirty-four casualties from shelling alone. 
The 107th and 108th Field Artillery Bat- 
talions, emplaced near Bissen, answered 
the enemy guns and gave what protec- 
tion they could to the marching infantry. 
Engineer parties laid mines on the main 
roads and blew the last bridges at Die- 
kirch. The rear guard, formed from 
the attached tank company, stayed on in 
Diekirch, where the first platoon cap- 
tured 107 prisoners. By midnight the 1st 
and 3d Battalions were west of the Al- 
zette, strung along the west-reaching 
line of hills which began just south of 
Ettelbruck and anchored near Grosbous. 
Here the 109th faced north, forming the 
westernmost segment of the still firm 
south shoulder of the VIII Corps line. 
General Leonard ordered the 2d Bat- 
talion, reduced to half strength, over to 
the east side of the Alzette to offer some 
infantry protection for the 9th Armored 
tanks in the Stegen-Ermsdorf area. In 
Ettelbruck demolition parties remained 
at work until the morning of 20 Decem- 
ber; then they withdrew, blowing the 
bridges behind them. 

The troop withdrawal from Diekirch 
was followed by a mass exodus of the 
civilian population. When the Germans 
first shelled the town cn 16 December, 
the citizenry had started to leave Die- 
kirch but had been halted by American 
officers and local officials so as to keep 
the supply roads open to the 109th. 
Rumors of the American withdrawal oii 



the 19th brought the people of Die- 
kirch out of their cellars and into the 
streets. They were particularly apprehen- 
sive because members of the local gen- 
darmerie had fought alongside the 
Americans and taken a score of German 
prisoners who now were housed in the 
local jail. Finally it was agreed that the 
civil population would evacuate the town 
at midnight on the 19th following the 
main troop movement. So, in freezing 
cold, some three thousand men, women, 
and children set out on the road to 
Mersch, leaving behind four hundred 
of the townspeople who refused to aban- 
don aged relatives or property.^ 

All during the day of the 20th the 
109th Infantry was out of touch with the 
enemy. The 3$2d Folks Grenadier Divi- 
sion had assembled two of its regiments 
west of Bastendorf during the previous 
night, leaving the 916th Regiment to 
occupy Diekirch as the Americans left. 
Strict orders had arrived from the Sev- 
enth Army headquarters, located at In- 
gendorf (a little village southwest of 
Bitburg) , that the 352^ must start the 
attack rolling once more and take posses- 
sion of the vital crossings at Ettelbruck. 
To make success certain. General 
Brandenberger, the Seventh Army com- 
mander, sent army artillery and rocket 
projectors to join the 552^ artillery bat- 
talions in creating an "artillery center 
of gravity" at Bastendorf. The short- 
age of bridging equipment continued to 
plague the Seventh Army, but Branden- 
berger's staff scraped together an im- 
promptu bridge train and started it to- 



" This story is given in Rapport sur L'activite 
de la Gendarmerie Grand-Ducale lors du bom- 
bardment et de L'evacuation de la ville de Die- 
kirch, provided the author by the Luxembourg 
liaison officer at Headquarters, SHAPE. 



ATTACK BY GERMAN LEFT WING: 16-20 DECEMBER 



227 



Gave Refuge for Civilians 



ward Ettelbruck. Fortunately for the 
Seventh Army drivers, gunners, and pon- 
toneers, the skies remained overcast and 
the columns moved freely along the 
roads. At Diekirch the pi6th Regiment 
found that one bridge had escaped com- 
plete destruction and could bear infantry 
and single heavy weapons; so the regi- 
ment moved across the Sauer, its inten- 
tion to take Ettelbruck from the rear. 
The German center, and the bridge 
train, converged on Ettelbruck. Mean- 
while part of the 3$2d Folks Granadier 
Division crossed the north-south branch 
of the Sauer and marched west to the 
Wark Creek, apparently intending to 



envelop the open American flank from 
the left. 

Elements of the gth Armored 
Division Battle at the Sauer 
16—20 December 

Only six days prior to the German 
attack, troops of the gth Armored Divi- 
sion (General Leonard) had been as- 
signed a 3-mile sector on the VIII Corps 
front between the 28th Infantry Divi- 
sion and the 4th Infantry Division. This 
sector fronted on the Sauer River south 
of the junction with the Our and earlier 
had been held by a battalion of the 109th 



228 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



Infantry. The bulk o£ the gth Armored 
Division, a unit with no prior battle 
experience, was held in the west as the 
VIII Corps reserve, but just before the 
German attack CCB was transferred to 
V Corps. The new sector was manned 
by the Goth Armored Infantry Battalion 
(Lt. Col. Kenneth W. Collins) , sup- 
ported by the 3d Armored Field Artil- 
lery Battalion at Haller. As was custom- 
ary the armored infantry had been 
placed in line in this quiet sector for 
combat indoctrination, and in the first 
few days the Germans on the opposite 
bank of the Sauer showed so little in- 
clination to disturb the prevailing quiet 
that Collins was concerned lest his bat- 



talion secure no combat experience what- 
ever. He need not have worried. 

Across the river a fresh German Divi- 
sion, the 2'j6th Folks Grenadier (Gen- 
eralleutnant Kurt Moehring) , had just 
come in from Poland and was dispersed 
in the little Eifel villages between Ech- 
ternach and Bitburg. Units of the 2y6th 
were moved frequently in the week be- 
fore the attack, companies exchanging 
billets to mislead both the local pop- 
ulace and the American intelligence. 
Finally, in two night marches the divi- 
sion concentrated on the east bank of 
the Sauer, its zone of attack defined in 
the north by Wallendorf (at the junction 
of the Our and the Sauer) and in the 




Wallendorf, Viewed From Reisdorf on the western side of the Sauer River. 



ATTACK BY GERMAN LEFT WING: 16-20 DECEMBER 



229 



south by BoUendorf. The 2y6th Folks 
Grenadier Division, then, generally 
faced the 6oth Armored Infantry Bat- 
talion, but it should be noticed that the 
tortuous gorge of the Schwarz Erntz lay 
in the zone of the 2y6th and would be 
used to gain entry to the left flank and 
rear of the 4th Infantry Division. 

Moehring's division had been recon- 
stituted during the autumn following 
almost complete destruction in Nor- 
mandy and the retreat across France. 
Rebuilt around wounded veterans who 
had returned from the hospitals, the 
division was fairly young in terms of the 
conscription classes it represented and 
was at full strength when it moved west 
from Poland. The 2y6th, however, 
could not count on accompanying gun 
support for its infantry since no assault 
guns had been supplied. In addition the 
divisional artillery and train were horse- 
drawn. In the Seventh Army plan this 
division formed the right wing of the 
LXXX Corps. The 276th Volks Gren- 
adier Division, which with the 212th 
Volks Grenadier Division constituted 
this corps, had no distant objective such 
as those assigned the Fifth Panzer Army 
formations on its right. The only definite 
mission given the 2y6th was to gain the 
high ground across the Sauer, dislocate 
the American artillery positions around 
Haller, and form the western extension 
of the blocking line which the LXXX 
Corps was to present to any American 
thrust aimed at the southern pivot of 
the great counteroffensive. Once the 
western Sauer heights between Wallen- 
dorf and BoUendorf were in hand, the 
advance of the 226th would turn toward 
the southwest, moving alongside the 
212th. In case the opportunity offered, 
advance contingents might push as far 



as Mersch and the area north of Luxem- 
bourg. This last maneuver, however, 
was not a mandatory part of the Seventh 
Army plan. 

On the morning of the attack the 
LXXX Corps artillery broke the long 
quiet on the Sauer River as six bat- 
talions and a rocket projector brigade 
divided their fire to reinforce the divi- 
sional artillery of the 276th and 212th. 
The initial concentration in the gth 
Armored Division (— ) sector, estimated 
by the Americans at about a thousand 
rounds, was aimed principally at Beau- 
fort, the largest tOwn in this area, and 
the batteries around Haller. Damage 
was not extensive but the forward tele- 
phone lines were shot out. The thick 
iEog and early morning darkness must 
have been as much a problem to the 
German assault units as to the American 
observers looking out toward the river. 
In any case there was considerable con- 
fusion and delay on the east bank, and 
few or none of the rubber assault boats 
landed on the American side before 0630. 
Once across, the German assault troops 
moved rapidly up the draws, masked 
from view by the fog and the heavy 
woods. 

The main crossing was made by the 
986th Regiment near Wallendorf. Part 
of one battalion circled into the sharp 
valley where the Our and Sauer meet, 
intending to seize Hill 402 (southwest 
of Bigelbach) , which offered the best 
observation in the vicinity. These troops 
succeeded in wiping out a squad of 
armored infantry that had been sta- 
tioned to watch the valley, but soon 
mortar and machine gun fire from the 
3d Battalion, 109th Infantry, watching 
from the heights north of the Our, 
stopped the Germans in their tracks. 



230 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



The second battalion o£ the p86th moved 
cautiously up the draws and ravines to- 
ward Bigelbach. This village lay on a 
slope and had not been occupied, al- 
though American patrols moved in now 
and then at night to check suspicious 
lights. As a result the 986th was able to 
report that it had made gains on its left 
and "taken" Bigelbach. For some reason 
the Germans did not push on and Com- 
pany C, holding the hills and crests 
south of Bigelbach, engaged them in a 
desultory, long-range fire fight for the 
rest of the day. 

The center German regiment, pSSth, 
made its crossings near Dillingen, aim- 
ing in the direction of Beaufort and 
Haller. Here Company A was deployed 
in the woods above the Sauer with ob- 
servation on the river but with insuffi- 
cient strength to block the numerous 
ravines running up the wooded heights. 
By noon the attack threatened to over- 
run the company and infiltration had 
taken place at several points, the German 
movements hidden by the dense pine. 
Colonel Collins committed Company B, 
in reserve at Beaufort, to attack through 
Company A in an effort to restore the 
position and drive the Germans back 
over the Sauer. The reserve company 
ran up against units of the p88th which 
had penetrated between the two forward 
companies but moved fast and reached 
a position abreast of A and C. All this 
while the batteries around Haller had 
been shelling the enemy crossing points; 
the cost to the Germans must have 
been high, but they kept coming. 

In midafternoon General Leonard 
dipped into his reserves to support the 
60th Armored Infantry Battalion. Since 
the gth Armored Division was in this 
sector with a force equivalent only to a 



combat command, Leonard's reserves 
consisted of one tank battalion (the 
19th) , a company from the divisional 
engineers, a battery from the 482d Air- 
craft Artillery Battalion, most of the 
89th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, 
a company of self-propelled tank de- 
stroyers, and two reconnaissance pla- 
toons belonging to the 811th Tank De- 
stroyer Battalion. These units would 
fight as a combat command, although 
the sector was not turned over to Col. 
Thomas L. Harrold and CCA head- 
quarters until the next morning. One 
troop was taken from the cavalry and 
given to the 60th Armored Infantry Bat- 
talion; the armored cars moved forward 
and spent the night of 16-17 December 
outposting Beaufort and patrolling the 
road which ran from the town into the 
Schwarz Erntz gorge. 

This deep, thickly wooded gorge 
posed a constant threat to both CCA 
and the 4th Infantry Division. As yet 
the enemy made no attempt to utilize 
the natural sally port, but in the 4th 
Division sector German infantry sur- 
rounded Berdorf, which controlled a 
lateral road descending into the gorge. 
In the 9th Armored sector three lateral 
draws debouched west from the gorge 
toward Haller, Waldbillig, and Christ- 
nach. In the late afternoon Company A, 
19th Tank Battalion, joined the lath 
Infantry (4th Division) as a mobile 
reserve in this area. Troop B, 89th 
Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, came 
up to reinforce Company B, 81 ith Tank 
Destroyer Battalion, whose yG-mm. self- 
propelled guns covered the Waldbillig 
and Chris tnach draws. The right flank 
of the gth Armored, although none too 
secure, at least was outposted. During 
the late afternoon the enemy, who ear- 



ATTACK BY GERMAN LEFT WING: 16-20 DECEMBER 



231 



lier had been stopped on the left flank, 
worked closer in toward Reisdorf using 
the cover o£ the woods. This threat as 
yet was not too serious, but the light 
tank company of the 19th Tank Bat- 
talion was dispatched north of Ermsdorf 
to watch the road which angled from 
Reisdorf behind the left flank of the 
position occupied by the 60th Armored 
Infantry Battalion. 

The 2y6th Volks Grenadier Division 
had failed to seize control of the Sauer 
heights. Although assault parties had 
made successful penetrations in unde- 
fended sectors, some as deep as one and 
a half miles, stubbornly defended strong- 
points had checked any co-ordinated ad- 
vance. The deeply incised terrain had 
given tactical advantage, but this had 
been canceled by communications fail- 
ures brought on by the poor perform- 
ance of the German radio sets on the 
deep-pocketed ground. Futhermore, the 
2'j6th lacked the artillery so necessary 
for close infantry support in this type 
of terrain and had been forced to parcel 
its two howitzer battalions in small sec- 
tions along the east bank. On the whole 
the Seventh Army command was far from 
pleased by the day's performance, press- 
ing General Moehring to continue the 
attack through the night. 

Infiltration tactics began to bear fruit 
as day came on 1*7 December. In the 
center of the gth Armored sector the 
6oth Armored Infantry Battalion head- 
quarters at Beaufort discovered that the 
enemy had cut in between the head- 
quarters and the three companies of 
armored infantry in the line.'^ Six ar- 



Companies A and C had no communications 
witli tlie battalion. During the night of the i6th 
the two company commanders, Capt. John W. 
Schalles and Capt. Roger L. Shinn, each got a 



mored cars counterattacked and cleared 
the high ground north of Beaufort but 
were unable to drive the Germans from 
the woods behind the isolated compa- 
nies. The enemy meanwhile bore in on 
both flanks. On the south the gSyth Reg- 
iment, thus far missing in American 
identifications of the aySth Volks Gren- 
adier Division, appeared during the 
morning. One of its battalions marched 
unopposed through the Schwarz Erntz 
gorge and occupied Miillerthal, the 
point at which narrow, wooded defiles 
led out to Waldbillig and Christnach in 
the gth Armored (— ) zone, and to Cons- 
dorf in the 4th Division rear. 

About 1330 Troop B, 89th Cavalry 
Reconnaissance Squadron, and four tank 
destroyers from the 811th Tank De- 
stroyer Battalion, launched a counter- 
attack from Waldbillig to regain Miiller- 
thal. The leading tank destroyer was set 
afire by a German Panzerfaust, effec- 
tively blocking the narrow road. The 
dismounted cavalry encountered accu- 
rate small arms fire as they attempted 
to work ahead and the acting command- 
er of Troop B was killed. The unseen 
enemy, firing behind the cover of huge 
boulders and trees, had the upper hand; 
at dark a platoon of cavalry assault guns 
laid down a protective barrage and the 
American task force withdrew to the 
hills flanking the exit from the Wald- 
billig-Miillerthal defile. 

German efforts to achieve a real pene- 
tration on the left flank were less success- 
ful than on the right. Advance troops 
of the 2d Battalion, p86th Regiment, 
worked their way through the crossfire 
coming from the 109th Infantry and the 



lialf-track loaded with rations and ammunition 
and ran it through to the rifle line. 



232 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



6oth Armored Infantry Battalion and 
briefly occupied Eppeldorf, only to be 
run out by the light tanks based on 
Ermsdorf. 

The chief German success on 17 De- 
cember came at the close of day, with 
an attack by the ist Battalion, p88th 
Regiment, on Beaufort. Here, during 
daylight hours, the attackers had literal- 
ly been "blown all over" (as American 
observers reported) by the howitzers fir- 
ing from Savelborn and the guns on 
three headquarters tanks. But at dark 
Germans seeped into the town from as- 
sembly points in the woods, only some 
fifteen hundred yards distant, and am- 
bushed an 81 -mm. mortar platoon when 
this shifted to meet the assault. Colonel 
Collins ordered the headquarters of the 
Goth Armored Infantry Battalion back 
to the motor park near Savelborn and 
committed Troop A, 89th Cavalry Re- 
connaissance Squadron, to fight a rear 
guard action in Beaufort. The cavalry 
unit, led by Capt. Victor C. Leiker, held 
on until 2030, by which time the Ger- 
man infantry controlled all the street 
corners, then fought its way south to 
Waldbillig. This rear guard stand cost 
Troop A 16 jeeps and 7 of its 12 armored 
cars as well as 43 casualties. 

While the 6oth Armored Infantry Bat- 
talion headquarters withdrew to Savel- 
born, the 3d Armored Field Artillery 
Battalion moved its batteries west from 
Haller to the Savelborn-Medernach 
road. Despite continuous counterbattery 
fire, the gunners had given steady and 
effective support whenever called upon, 
expending about 4,000 rounds during 
the two-day action. When the batteries 
displaced, forty artillerymen, with four 
half-tracks, and Battery A of the 482d 
Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion re- 



mained behind to block any German 
penetration through the cross-corridor of 
the Schwarz Erntz which led past Haller 
back into the Savelborn position. By 
midnight, then, the 9th Armored line 
was re-forming, from Waldbillig (still 
held by cavalry and tank destroyers) to 
Ermsdorf, where the light tanks con- 
tinued to patrol. Contact with the three 
line companies was lost, but they fought 
on in their original positions, under 
orders from the battalion commander to 
hold their ground. With company fronts 
a mile wide, the fight became a series of 
squad actions as the enemy infantry 
filtered through and behind the Ameri- 
can "line." Each attempt to re-lay a 
telephone wire or carry forward an am- 
munition case became a major tactical 
effort. 

Although the 2y6th Folks Grenadier 
Division had driven a number of wedges 
into the 9th Armored sector during 17 
December, the Seventh Army command- 
er was very dissatisfied with the divi- 
sion performance. The 2y6th was still 
hung up on the Sauer River. A part 
of its infantry and nearly all supporting 
heavy weapons remained on the east 
bank waiting for a bridge to be com- 
pleted at Wallendorf, where American 
shells had smashed much equipment and 
killed many engineers. Brandenberger 
sent word to OB WEST that a new 
commander was needed for the 2y6th 
Division. But General Moehring did not 
live to greet his successor: en route in 
his staff car from Beaufort to Miiller- 
thal he was killed by machine gun fire. 

The fighting armored infantry had so 
successfully contained the German main 
forces on 16 and 17 December that the 
infiltrating units which first made head- 
way in the Beaufort area were relatively 



ATTACK BY GERMAN LEFT WING: 16-20 DECEMBER 



233 



small. The gth Armored intelligence 
estimates set the enemy strength to be 
encountered here at approximately three 
companies. Against this supposedly lim- 
ited force the CCA commander mustered 
his remaining men, assault guns, and 
armored vehicles for a counterattack to 
re-establish contact with the three iso- 
lated companies "and drive the enemy 
into the river." Colonel Harrold's avail- 
able force now included only Company 
B, igth Tank Battalion; a platoon o£ 
Company D's light tanks; a cavalry as- 
sault gun platoon; the I and R platoon 
from the 6oth; and Company A, gth Ar- 



mored Engineer Battalion (a part of 
which was loaded in half-tracks) . 

The counterattack was to be made by 
two task forces. Task Force Hall (Capt. 
John W. Hall) would lead from the 
Savelborn assembly area north to Berens 
and then drive north to Company C 
while the second task force, Task Force 
Philbeck (Maj. Tommie M. Philbeck), 
attacked to the east and northeast to 
reach the other two companies. Before 
dawn on 18 December the I and R pla- 
toon started in its jeeps along the narrow 
road £0 Berens, reconnoitering in ad- 
vance of the main column. Fire sud- 




Belgian Woman Salvaging Grain in Gutted Barn 



234 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



denly poured in from all sides, killing the 
platoon commander and cutting the unit 
to pieces in a matter of minutes. Task 
Force Hall, continuing the advance in 
daylight, reached the thick Eselbour 
woods, but there took the wrong turning 
at a crossroad. The light tanks, forming 
the advance guard, had moved only a few 
hundred yards when the Germans 
opened fire with bazookas, knocking out 
the lead tank and blocking the road. 
Captain Hall, the leader of this task 
force, was wounded but manned an as- 
sault gun and cleared the enemy from 
the road. He was awarded the Distin- 
guished Service Cross. Shortly after noon 
Task Force Philbeck passed through 
Hall's position, only to lose more tanks. 
The Americans lost seven tanks before 
the order finally came to withdraw. 

The American setback had stemmed 
from the last act of General Moehring 
as commander of the 2y6th. Moehring 
had collected a battalion of the 986th 
Regiment and an antitank company 
armed with fifty-four Panzerfausts for an 
attack across the Savelborn-Ermsdorf 
road to seize Medernach. During the 
night of 17-18 December this force as- 
sembled in the cover of the Eselbour 
woods, waiting to jump off at dawn. 
There it lay, with perfect cover for close- 
in work with the bazooka, when the 
American advance began. Lacking suffi- 
cient infantry to clear the woods or de- 
fend the tanks, the Americans had been 
unable to profit by their superority in 
heavy weapons. 

The situation on the flanks in the CCA 
sector also was unfavorable to the Ameri- 
cans. At Ermsdorf, which had been the 
linchpin on the northern flank, elements 
of the ist Battalion, 986th Regiment, 
brought up mortars and attacked. The 



light tanks beat off the Germans but 
were forced to give up their screening 
activities in this area. On the right flank 
Troop C of the cavalry made a dismount- 
ed assault from Haller with the intention 
of retaking Beaufort. The troopers were 
supported by six half-tracks from Com- 
pany A, 48 2d Antiaircraft Artillery Bat- 
talion, mounting the deadly quadruple 
.50-caliber machine guns, but the half- 
tracks found it impossible to maneuver 
in the heavy woods. The Germans ahead 
laid down mortar fire; the cavalry were 
hard hit and could not maneuver, the 
half-tracks could not close with the Ger- 
man mortar crews, and the attack was 
abandoned.^ 

In fact the American force was too 
slight to hold the original position on 
the high ground north of Haller, and 
it withdrew to the new defensive po- 
sition being formed by CCA as an after- 
math to the reverses suffered during the 
day. In the course of this withdrawal 
the armored field artillery batteries were 
hard beset and had to beat off the enemy 
at four hundred yards range. Two bat- 
teries actually took new firing positions 
in front of the rifle line. After dark CCA 
reorganized on a line running roughly 
northwest from Waldbillig to Ermsdorf, 
thence west to the high ground around 
Stegen, the latter about two and a half 
miles south of Diekirch where the 
109th Infantry was in the process of 
assembly. The Germans finally had 
opened the western Sauer valley and 
driven an entering wedge between the 
gth Armored Division and the 109th In- 
fantry. The gap between Stegen and 
Diekirch could be closed to the enemy 

" Pfc. T. J. Zimmerer, an aid man, stayed be- 
hind enemy lines for eleven days with a severely 
wounded soldier. He was awarded the DSC. 



ATTACK BY GERMAN LEFT WING: 16-20 DECEMBER 



235 



only by roadblocks and roving patrols, 
but the Germans failed to follow up 
their advantage on the night of 18-19 
December. 

There was no longer thought of re- 
lieving the three armored infantry com- 
panies still behind the enemy lines. Colo- 
nel Collins sent word to withdraw, via 
a radio which a forward observer from 
the 3d Field Artillery Battalion had re- 
paired and by officers from the isolated 
companies who previously had made 
daring dashes by jeep through the Ger- 
mans to bring out wounded and carry 
forward ammunition. During the next 
three days volunteers led back nearly 
60 percent of the armored infantry, 
but the three-day fight had cost the 60th 
an estimated 231 casualties.^ 

Across the lines the psychological lift 
which might have been given by the 
appearance of the new commander. Col. 
Hugo Dempwolff, and the successful at- 
tack against the 109th Infantry by the 
352^ Folks Grenadier Division, which 
had finally shaken the 2y6th north flank 
loose, was offset by General Moehring's 
death and the failure to provide a bridge 
in the division bridgehead. So short was 
bridging equipment in the Seventh 
Army that the initial losses at Wallen- 
dorf could not be immediately replaced. 



' The gth Armored Division never fouglit as a 
complete division during the period covered by 
the present volume. As a result the gth Armored 
after action report and files are of little value in 
tracing the action of one of its combat commands. 
For the series of events described in this section 
the main sources are the combat interviews; the 
6oth Armored Infantry Battalion AAR; the gth 
Armored Engineer Battalion AAR, which tells the 
very detailed story, by companies; the CCA AAR 
and S-3 Jnl; the separate troop histories in the 
8gth Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron AAR; and 
the useful AAR of the Siith Tank Destroyer 
Battalion, 



On the night of 18-19 December, the 
divisions on the right and left of the 
2y6th permitted artillery, some rocket 
projectors, and supplies to move across 
their bridges to the 2y6th. As yet the 
company of assault guns which the 
Seventh Army had promised was no- 
where in sight. 

Colonel Dempwolff, taking stock of 
conditions in his new command, found 
that losses had been high (ascribed by 
the unit commanders to the continued 
absence of assault gun support) and that 
spirits were low. He determined to con- 
tinue the attack, nevertheless, this time 
using the newly arrived supporting 
weapons to bring his left and center reg- 
iments together in a co-ordinated thrust 
against Waldbillig, the anchor position 
for the south flank of the 9th Armored 
Division. On 19 December, then, Demp- 
wolff reorganized his regiments, moved 
artillery and rocket projectors forward, 
and gave his troops food and rest. At 
Bollendorf his engineers finally com- 
pleted a bridge over the 40-yard-wide 
river, lessening somewhat the pinch on 
the 2y6th. 

CCA took this much needed breath- 
ing spell to prepare roadblocks and dem- 
olitions in front of its new 7-mile-long 
main line of resistance. At best this posi- 
tion amounted to a thin screen with nu- 
merous gaps; so a slim reserve was creat- 
ed consisting of two engineer platoons 
and a dozen assault guns. During the 
morning, contact with the Germans was 
lost. Patrols that went out to the front 
and flanks found nothing in the danger- 
ous gap between Ermsdorf and Diekirch 
but drove off a German patrol which 
was moving south from Eppeldorf, not 
west into the gap. At the right end of 
the American line patrols discovered a 



236 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



large group of Germans in a farmhouse. 
After a platoon of tank destroyers shelled 
the house, a volunteer squad of seven 
noncoms from Battery A, 482d Antiair- 
craft Artillery Battalion, made the as- 
sault with Tommy guns and hand gre- 
nades. A corporal killed three Germans 
with a blast from his Tommy gun, after 
he himself had been shot in the stomach, 
and fifty-nine Germans gave up the fight. 

The gth Armored Division could re- 
port on the night of the 19th that the 
situation on its right flank was satisfac- 
tory, and on the left flank too as far as 
Stegen; beyond Stegen the situation was 
"obscure." General Leonard borrowed 
the 90th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squad- 
ron (less three troops) from the 4th 
Infantry Division zone, where a part of 
its parent organization, the loth Ar- 
mored Division, had initiated counterat- 
tacks the previous day. But the gap be- 
tween the 9th Armored Division and the 
109th Infantry was too large to be cov- 
ered by a minimal cavalry screen. Worse, 
the gap widened during the evening as 
the 109th withdrew from Diekirch en 
route to the Ettelbruck-Grosbous line. 
The compromise solution that moved 
one much depleted battalion of the 
109th southeast to make contact at Ste- 
gen gave General Leonard's tanks some 
badly needed infantry protection but 
could hardly deflect any determined en- 
emy thrust around the left flank of the 
9th Armored Division. In this instance, 
however, the military axiom that a com- 
mander who is worried about the enemy 
may reflect on the worries besetting the 
enemy commander, was proven by the 
event. While General Leonard voiced 
concern to his corps commander over the 
gap between the 9th Armored Division 
(-) and the 109th Infantry, Colonel 



Dempwolff was plagued by the thought 
of the widening gap between the 2y6th 
Volks Grenadier Division and the 552^ 
Volks Grenadier Division. But he had a 
clear order from General Brandenber- 
ger: the 2'j6th must contain as many 
American troops as possible. This mis- 
sion in Dempwolff's judgment required 
a continuation of the attack southwest- 
ward toward Waldbillig and Christnach 
where American reinforcements already 
had arrived to help the 4th Infantry 
Division. 

Late on 19 December word reached 
the 2y6th that its missing assault gun 
company had detrained at Trier. The 
planned attack against the gth Armored 
right flank was therefore postponed un- 
til the guns could reach the, p88th Regi- 
ment, which had been assigned the main 
role. In midafternoon on 20 December 
the weapons remaining to the company, 
apparently not more than three or four, 
joined the p88th at Haller and the at- 
tack against Waldbillig commenced. 
Twice the American 76-mm. tank de- 
stroyers and supporting batteries of the 
3d Field Artillery Battalion drove off 
the Germans. But when night fell Demp- 
wolff brought the p8yth Regiment 
through Miillerthal and into the gorge 
running west to Waldbillig. Menaced 
from two sides by superior strength, the 
American tank destroyers and cavalry 
were ordered to withdraw to the ridge 
south of the village. 

The capture of Waldbillig on 20 De- 
cember marked the high-water mark of 
the 2'j6th Volks Grenadier Division ad- 
vance. The division now had a bridge 
at Bollendorf, its weapons were west of 
the Sauer, the division command post 
had been moved across to Beaufort, and 
the center and left regiments had made 



ATTACK BY GERMAN LEFT WING: 16-20 DECEMBER 



237 



contact at Waldbillig. The 2'j6th, how- success more limited than that gained 
ever, had paid heavily for the restricted by any other division in the Seventh 
success achieved in the five days' attack, Army. 



CHAPTER X 

The German Southern Shoulder 
Is Jammed 



In the first week of December tfie 4tfi 
Infantry Division (Maj. Gen. Raymond 
O. Barton) left the VII Corps after a 
month of bloody operations in the Hiirt- 
gen Forest. Having lost over 5,000 battle 
casualties and 2,500 nonbattle casualties 
from trench foot and exposure, the divi- 
sion now had to be rebuilt to something 
approaching its former combat effective- 
ness. It moved south to Luxembourg, 
"the quiet paradise for weary troops," 
as one report names it, taking over the 
83d Infantry Division positions on the 
right flank of the VIII Corps (and First 
Army) while the 83d occupied the old 
4th Division sector in the north. The 
35-mile front assigned to the 4th Divi- 
sion conformed to the west bank of 
the Sauer and Moselle Rivers. Across 
these rivers lay a heterogeneous collec- 
tion of German units whose lack of ac- 
tivity in past weeks promised the rest the 
4th Division needed so badly. The divi- 
sion completed its concentration within 
the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg on the 
13 th, its three regiments deployed as 
they would be when the German attack 
came. The 12 th Infantry was on the left 
(next to the 9th Armored Division) 
and fronting on the Sauer; the 8th In- 
fantry was in the center, deployed on 
both the Sauer and Moselle; the 22d In- 
fantry reached to the right along the 



Moselle until it touched the First and 
Third Army boundary just beyond the 
Luxembourg border. Of the three regi- 
ments only the 12th Infantry (Col. Rob- 
ert H. Chance) lay in the path of the 
projected Ge rman counterofEensive.^ 
(See Map V.) 

As soon as it reached the quiet VIII 
Corps area, the 4th Infantry Division 
began to send groups of its veterans on 
leave— to Paris, to Arlon in Belgium, 
even a fortunate few to the United 
States. Rotation in the line allowed 



^ Histories liave been publislied for three of the 
units involved in the defense described in this 
section: Col. Gerden F. Johnson, History of the 
Twelfth Infantry Regiment in World War II 
(Boston: National Fourth (Ivy) Division Associ- 
ation, 1947) ; History of the Eleventh Infantry 
Regiment, Fifth Infantry Division (Baton Rouge: 
Army and Navy Publishing Company, 194,6) ; and 
Lester M. Nichols, Impact, The Battle Story of 
the Tenth Armored Division (New York: Brad- 
bury, Sales, O'Neill, 1954) • The combat interviews 
are excellent for the 4th Division, less useful for 
the 10th Armored. The 4th Division AAR pro- 
vides a good narrative but the division journals 
are scanty. Of the regiments only the 12th In- 
fantry has much information in its AAR and unit 
journal. The AAR of the 70th Tank Battalion 
can be used to flesh out much of the story. For 
the participation of the 10th Armored troops, see 
the 10th Armored G-3 journal and the CCA 
AAR. An interesting account by a participant 
will be found in Maj. Glenn W. Zarger's manu- 
script. Defense of Little Switzerland, prepared for 
the Advanced Officers Class No. 1, Armored 
School, Fort Knox, Ky., 1 May 1948. 



THE GERMAN SOUTHERN SHOULDER IS JAMMED 



239 



others a few hours in Luxembourg City, 
ice cream in several flavors, well-watered 
beer, and the dubious pleasure of hear- 
ing accordionists squeeze out German 
waltzes and Yankee marching songs of 
World War I vintage. Replacements, 
now by order named "reinforcements," 
joined the division, but by mid-Decem- 
ber the regiments still averaged five to 
six hundred men understrength. Infan- 
try replacements were particularly hard 
to obtain and many rifle companies re- 
mained at no better than half strength. 
Equipment, which had been in use since 
the Normandy landings, was in poor con- 
dition. A number of the divisional ve- 
hicles had broken down en route to 
Luxembourg; a part of the artillery was 
in divisional ordnance shops for repair. 
When the Germans attacked, the 70th 
Tank Battalion, attached to the 4th Di- 
vision, had only eleven of its fifty-four 
medium tanks in running condition. 

Neither the 83d Division, which the 
4th had relieved, nor any higher head- 
quarters considered the Germans in this 
sector to be capable of making more 
than local attacks or raids, and patrols 
from the 4th Division found nothing to 
change this estimate. Even so General 
Barton made careful disposition of his 
understrength and weary division, even 
ordering the divisional rest camps, orig- 
inally back as far as Arlon, to be moved 
to sites forward of the regimental com- 
mand posts. Since any static linear de- 
fense was out of the question because of 
the length of the front and the meander- 
ing course of the two rivers, Barton in- 
structed his regimental commanders to 
maintain only small forces at the river 
outpost line, holding the main strength, 
generally separate companies, in the vil- 
lages nearby. Each regiment had one bat- 



talion as a mobile reserve, capable of 
moving on four-hour notice. Each regi- 
ment, by standard practice on such a 
wide front, had one of the division's 
i05-mm. howitzer battalions in direct 
support. General support was provided 
by the division's own 155-mm. howitzer 
battalion and two additional medium 
battalions belonging to the 42 2d Field 
Artillery Group, but even this added 
firepower did not permit the 4th Di- 
vision massed fire at any point on the 
extended front. Mobile support was pro- 
vided by those tanks of the 70th Tank 
Battalion which were operational, the 
self-propelled tank destroyers of the 803d 
Tank Destroyer Battalion, and the 
towed tank destroyers of the 8o2d. The 
plans to utilize these positions were 
briefed by General Barton to his com- 
manders on the 13th. Barton was appre- 
hensive that the enemy would attempt 
a raid in force to seize Luxembourg City, 
and in the battle beginning on the 16th 
he would view Luxembourg City as the 
main German objective. 

Intelligence reports indicated that the 
4th Division was confronted by the 212th 
Volks Grenadier Division and miscella- 
neous "fortress" units, deployed on a 
front equal to that held by the 4th. Un- 
til the night of 14 December this estimate 
was correct. As yet no American troops 
had had opportunity to try the mettle of 
the 212th (Generalmajor Franz Sens- 
fuss) . After three years of campaigning 
on the Eastern Front the division had 
been so badly shattered during with- 
drawals in the Lithuanian sector that 
it was taken from the line and sent to 
Poland, in September 1944, for over- 
hauling. The replacements received, 
mostly from upper Bavaria, were judged 
better than the average although there 



240 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



were many seventeen-year-olds. Unit 
commanders and noncommissioned offi- 
cers were good and experienced; morale 
was high. Although the 212th was at 
full strength it shared the endemic weak- 
nesses of the volks grenadier division: 
insufficient communications and fewer 
assault guns than provided by regulation 
(only four were with the division on 16 
December) . 

Brandenberger rated the 212th as his 
best division. For this reason the 212th 
was assigned the mission of protecting 
the flank of the Seventh Army, just as 
the latter was responsible for guarding 
the flank of the forces in the main 
counteroffensive. More specifically, the 
Seventh Army plans called for the 212th 
to attack over the Sauer on either side 
of Echternach, reach and hold the line 
of the Schlammbach, thus eliminating 
the American artillery on the plateau 
in the Alttrier-Herborn-Mompach area, 
and finally to contain as many additional 
American troops as possible by a thrust 
toward Junglinster. Radio Luxembourg, 
the powerful station used for Allied 
propaganda broadcasts, was situated 
near Junglinster. As in the case of the 
2y6th Volks Grenadier Division, there is 
no indication that the LXXX Corps ex- 
pected to send the 212th into Luxem- 
bourg City, although the Germans knew 
that the 12th Army Group Headquarters 
and the advance command post of the 
Ninth Air Force were located there. 

On the night of 13-14 December the 
212th commenced to strip its extended 
front in concentration for its part in the 
counteroffensive. The 42^d Regiment 
made a forced march from the sector 
southwest of Trier and by daylight had 
bivouacked on the right wing of the 
212th. The following night all three 



regiments assembled behind a single bat- 
talion which acted as a screen along the 
Sauer between Bollendorf and Ralingen, 
the prospective zone of attack. On the 
final night (15-16 December) the divi- 
sion moved into the position for the 
jump-off: the 42^d on the right, north of 
Echternach; the }2oth on the left, where 
the Sauer turned east of Echternach; and 
the 316th in army reserve northeast of 
the city. The long southern flank of the 
old 212th Volks Grenadier Division sec- 
tor had been drastically weakened to 
permit the concentration at Echternach. 
Only two Festung battalions were left to 
cover the twelve miles south to the 
boundary between the Seventh and 
First Armies, but in this denuded sector 
the Sauer and Moselle Rivers afforded 
a considerable natural defense. 

The Germans had excellent intelli- 
gence of the 4th Infantry Division 
strength and positions. The Luxem- 
bourg-German border was easily crossed, 
and despite the best efforts of the Amer- 
ican Counter Intelligence Corps and the 
local police the bars and restaurants in 
Luxembourg City provided valuable 
listening posts for German agents. It is 
likely that the enemy had spotted all the 
American outpost and artillery positions; 
it is certain he knew that the 212th Volks 
Grenadier Division would be opposed 
only by the 12 th Infantry during the 
first assault phase. 

The German Thrust Begins 

When the German artillery opened up 
on the 12 th Infantry at H-hour for the 
counteroffensive, the concentration fired 
on the company and battalion command 
posts was accurate and effective. By day- 
break all wire communication forward of 



THE GERMAN SOUTHERN SHOULDER IS JAMMED 



241 



the battalions was severed. Many radios 
were in the repair shops, and those at 
outposts had a very limited range over 
the abrupt and broken terrain around 
Echternach and Berdorf, Luxembourg's 
"Little Switzerland." Throughout this 
first day the 12th Infantry would fight 
with very poor communication. The 
problem of regimental control and co- 
ordination was heightened by the wide 
but necessary dispersion of its units on 
an extended front and the tactical isola- 
tion in an area of wooded heights 
chopped by gorges and huge crevasses. 
In accordance with the division orders to 
hold back maximum reserves, the 12th 
Infantry had only five companies in the 
line, located in villages athwart the main 
and secondary roads leading southwest 
from the Sauer River crossings to the in- 
terior of the Grand Duchy. These vil- 
lages, at which the crucial engagements 
would be fought, were Berdorf, Echter- 
nach, Lauterborn, Osweiler, and Dick- 
weiler. Actually, only a few men were 
stationed with the company command 
post in each village; the rifle platoons 
and weapon sections were dispersed in 
outposts overlooking the Sauer, some of 
them as far as 2,000 yards from their 
company headquarters. 

The leading companies of the two 
German assault regiments began crossing 
the Sauer before dawn. Apparently the 
crews manning the rubber boats had 
trouble with the swift current, and 
there were too few craft to accommodate 
large detachments. The immediate ob- 
jective of the northern regiment, the 
42^d, was the plateau on which stood 
the village of Berdorf; beyond this the 
regiment had orders to cut the road 
running west from Lauterborn and Ech- 
ternach and link forces with the 320th 



Regiment. The latter crossed east of 
Echternach, its first objective being the 
series of hills north of Dickweiler and 
Osweiler. Once in possession of these 
hills the 320th was to seize the two vil- 
lages, then drive on to join the 423d. 

General Barton had warned his regi- 
ments at 0929 to be on the alert because 
of activity reported to the north in the 
28th Division area, intelligence con- 
firmed by a phone call from General 
Middleton. But the first word that the 
Germans were across the river reached 
the 12th Infantry command post in Jung- 
linster at 1015, with a report from 
Company F, in Berdorf, that a 15-man 
patrol had been seen approaching the 
village a half-hour earlier. At Berdorf 
most of Company F (1st Lt. John L. 
Leake) had been on outpost duty at the 
four observation posts fronting the river. 
The company radio was back for repair 
but each of the artillery observers, for- 
ward, had a radio. Either these sets failed 
to function or the outposts were sur- 
prised before a message could get out. 
The ist Battalion, 423d Regiment, over- 
ran three of the outpost positions, cap- 
tured the company mortars, machine 
guns, and antitank guns sited in support 
of the forward detachments, and moved 
in on Berdorf. Outpost 2 at Birkelt 
Farm, a mile and a half east of Berdorf, 
somehow escaped surprise. Here the 2d 
Platoon (with twenty-one men and two 
artillery observers) held out in the stone 
farm buildings for four days and from 
this position harassed the Germans mov- 
ing up the ravine road to Berdorf. Direct 
assault failed to dislodge these Ameri- 
cans, and the attempt was abandoned 
pending the arrival of heavy weapons 
from across the river. 

At Berdorf itself. Lieutenant Leake 



242 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



gathered about sixty men in the Pare 
Hotel as the enemy closed in. The Pare 
was a three-storied reinforced concrete 
resort hotel (indicated in the guide- 
books as having "confort moderne") sur- 
rounded by open ground. Leake's force 
had only one .50-caliber machine gun 
and a BAR to reinforce the rifles in the 
hands of the defenders, but the Germans 
were so discouraged by the reception 
given their initial sorties that their suc- 
ceeding attempts to take the building 
were markedly halfhearted. 

Meanwhile the Jth Company, ^a^d 
Regiment, pushed forward to cut the 
Echternach-Luxembourg road, the one 
first-class highway in the 12 th Infantry 
sector. This company struck Lauterborn, 
on the road a mile and a half southwest 
of Echternach, and cut o£E the Company 
G outposts. By 1130 the remainder of 
Company G, armed with rifles and one 
BAR, was surrounded but still fighting 
at a mill just north of the village, while 
a platoon of the 2d Battalion weapons 
company held on in a few buildings at 
the west edge of Lauterborn. Company 
E, in Echternach, likewise was surprised 
but many of the outpost troops worked 
their way back to a hat factory, on the 
southwestern edge of the city, which had 
been organized as a strongpoint. The 
first German assault here did not strike 
until about 1100, although Echternach 
lay on low ground directly at the edge of 
the river. Attempts by the ^2oth Infan- 
try to make a predawn crossing at Ech- 
ternach had been frustrated by the swift 
current, and finally all the assault com- 
panies were put over the Sauer at Edin- 
gen, more than three miles downstream. 

This delay brought the advance troops 
of the ^2oth onto the hills above Os- 
weiler and Dickweiler well after day- 



light, and almost all of the American 
outposts were able to fall back on the 
villages intact. Late in the morning two 
enemy companies attacked Dickweiler, 
defended by Company I, but were 
beaten o£E by mortar fire, small arms, 
and a .50-caliber machine gun taken 
from a half-track. The Germans with- 
drew to some woods about 800 yards to 
the north, ending the action; apparently 
the ^2oth was more concerned with get- 
ting its incoming troops through Echter- 
nach. Osweiler, west of Dickweiler, thus 
far had seen no enemy. 

With wire shot out, radios failing, and 
outposts overrun, only a confused and 
fragmentary picture of the scope and in- 
tent of the attack was available in the 
4th Infantry Division headquarters. By 
noon, however, with Berdorf and Ech- 
ternach known to be under attack, Dick- 
weiler hit in force, and Lauterborn re- 
ported to be surrounded, it was clear that 
the Germans at the very least were en- 
gaged in an extensive "reconnaissance in 
force," thus far confined to the 12th In- 
fantry sector. Artillery, normally the 
first supporting weapon to be brought 
into play by the division, had very 
limited effect at this stage. The field ar- 
tillery battalions were widely dispersed 
behind the various sections of the long 
4th Division front; only fifteen pieces 
from the 42d Field Artillery Battalion 
and the regimental cannon company 
were in range to help the 12th Infantry. 
The one liaison plane flying observation 
for the gunners (the other was shot up 
early on 16 December) reported that 
"the area was as full of targets as a pin- 
ball machine," but little could be done 
about it. Radio communication, poor as 
it was, had to serve, with the artillery 
network handling most of the infantry 



THE GERMAN SOUTHERN SHOULDER IS JAMMED 



243 



and command messages in addition to its 
own calls for fire. The gunners neverthe- 
less began to get on the targets, and the 
German infantry reported very punish- 
ing artillery fire during the afternoon. 

At noon the picture of battle had 
sharper definition; so General Barton 
authorized the 12th Infantry to commit 
the 1st Battalion (Lt. Col. Oma R. 
Bates) , the regimental reserve. At the 
same time he gave Colonel Chance eight 
medium tanks and ten light tanks, 
leaving the 70th Tank Battalion (Lt. 
Col. Henry E. Davidson, Jr.) with only 
three mediums and a platoon of light 
tanks in running order. Small tank-infan- 
try teams quickly formed and went for- 
ward to relieve or reinforce the hard- 
pressed companies. Unfortunately rain 
and snow, during the days just past, had 
turned the countryside to mud, and the 
tanks were bound to the roads. Later 
Barton phoned the corps commander to 
ask for reinforcements. Middleton had 
nothing to offer but the 159th Engineer 
(Combat) Battalion, which was working 
on the roads. He told Barton that if he 
could find the engineers he could use 
them. 

Company A, mounted on a platoon of 
light tanks, was ordered to open the 
main road to Lauterborn and Echter- 
nach which supplied the 2d Battalion 
(Maj. John W. Gorn) . This team fought 
through some scattered opposition south- 
west of Lauterborn, dropped o£E a rifle 
platoon to hold Hill 313 (which com- 
manded the southern approach) , and 
moved through the village to the Com- 
pany G command post, freeing twenty- 
five men who had been taken prisoner 
in the morning. By nightfall the Ger- 
mans had been driven back some dis- 
tance from Lauterborn (they showed no 



wish to close with the tanks) , but the 
decision was made to dig in for the night 
alongside Company G rather than risk a 
drive toward Echternach in the dark. 
Companies A and G together now 
totaled about a hundred officers and 
men. 

Early in the afternoon Company B 
mounted five light and five medium 
tanks and set out to reach Company F. 
At the southern entrance to Berdorf, 
which is strung out along the plateau 
road for three-quarters of a mile, the re- 
lief force ran into a part of the ist Bat- 
talion, ^2jd Regiment, which opened 
bazooka fire from the houses. When 
darkness fell the Americans still were 
held in check, and the infantry drew 
back, with two tanks in support, and dug 
in for the night. The rest of the tanks 
returned to Consdorf for gasoline and 
ammunition. 

The morning situation in the sector 
held by the 3d Battalion (Maj. Herman 
R. Rice, Jr.) had not seemed too press- 
ing. The j20th had not reached Osweiler 
and the first assault at Dickweiler had 
been repulsed handily. But Colonel 
Chance sent out all of the usable tanks 
in Company B, 70th Tank Battalion— a 
total of three— to pick up a rifle squad 
at the 3d Battalion command post (lo- 
cated at Herborn) and clear the road to 
Osweiler. When this little force reached 
Osweiler, word had just come in that 
Dickweiler was threatened by another 
assault. The tanks and riflemen pro- 
ceeded to run a 2,000-yard gauntlet of 
bursting shells along the high, exposed 
road to Dickweiler (probably the enemy 
guns beyond the Sauer were firing inter- 
diction by the map) . 

The little column came in on the flank 
of the 2d Battalion, ^20th Regiment, 



244 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



which was in the process of moving two 
companies forward in attack formation 
across the open ground northwest of 
Dickweiler. The tanks opened fire on 
the German flank and rear, while all the 
infantry weapons in the village blazed 
away. Thirty-five of the enemy, including 
one company commander, surrendered; 
the commander of the second company 
was killed, as were at least fifty soldiers. 
Later the 4th Infantry Division historian 
was able to write: "This German battal- 
ion is clearly traceable through the rest 
of the operation, a beaten and ineffective 
unit." 

But the ^2oth Regiment, although 
badly shaken in its first attempts to take 
Dickweiler, was rapidly increasing the 
number of its troops in this area, spread- 
ing across the main road and encircling 
the two villages. About an hour after 
dark a message from the 3d Battalion 
reached the 12th Infantry command 
post: "Situation desperate. L and I com- 
pletely surrounded." Colonel Chance 
took Company C, the last troops of the 
12th Infantry, and sent them to the 3d 
Battalion command post for use on the 
morrow. 

The 12 th Infantry had rigidly obeyed 
the division commander's order that 
there should be "no retrograde move- 
ment," despite the fact that nine days 
earlier it had been rated "a badly deci- 
mated and weary regiment" and that on 
16 December its rifle companies still 
were much understrength. The 42d 
Field Artillery Battalion in direct sup- 
port of the 12 th, though forced to dis- 
place several times during the day be- 
cause of accurate counterbattery fire, had 
given the German infantry a severe 
jolting. 

In the face of the German build-up 



opposite the 12th Infantry and the ap- 
parent absence of enemy activity else- 
where on the division front. General 
Barton began the process of regrouping 
to meet the attack. There was no guaran- 
tee, however, that the enemy had com- 
mitted all his forces; the situation would 
have to develop further before the 4th 
Division commander could draw heavily 
on the two regiments not yet engaged. 
The ad Battalion of the 2 2d Infantry, 
in regimental reserve, was alerted to 
move by truck at daylight on 17 Decem- 
ber to the 12 th Infantry command post 
at Junglinster, there to be joined by two 
tank platoons. The gth Armored Divi- 
sion loaned a medium tank company 
from the 19th Tank Battalion, also to 
report to the 12 th Infantry on the fol- 
lowing morning. Three battalions of 
155's and two batteries of 105-mm. how- 
itzers began the shift north to reinforce 
the fifteen howitzers supporting the 12 th 
Infantry. And the division reserve, the 
4th Engineer Combat Battalion and 
4th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop, 
concentrated behind the 12 th Infantry 
lines. Most important, just before mid- 
night the corps commander telephoned 
General Barton that a part of the loth 
Armored Division would leave Thion- 
ville, in the Third Army area, at day- 
break on 17 December. The prospect 
must have brightened considerably at 
the 4th Division headquarters when the 
promise of this reinforcement arrived. 
The 4th Division would not be left to 
fight it out alone. 

On the second day of the battle both 
sides committed more troops. As yet the 
212th had no bridge, for the American 
artillery had shot out the structure 
erected on the 16th before it could be 
used. The 4th Division switched all local 



THE GERMAN SOUTHERN SHOULDER IS JAMMED 



245 



reserves to the threatened left flank to 
block further penetrations and to rein- 
force and relieve the garrison villages 
in the north. The 212th Volks Grena- 
dier Division took a shock company from 
the }i6th Regiment, which was still held 
in reserve under Seventh Army orders, 
and moved it into the fight. The division 
fusilier battalion was committed against 
the 12 th Infantry center in an attempt 
to drive a wedge through at Scheidgen 
while a part of the 2}d Festung Battal- 
ion crossed the Sauer near Girst to ex- 
tend the left flank of the German attack. 

During the night of 16 December 
searchlights had been brought down to 
the river opposite Echternach to aid the 
German engineers attempting to lay 
spans on the six stone piers, sole relic 
of the ancient bridge from whose exit 
the people of Echternach moved yearly 
in the "dancing procession" on the feast 
of St. Willibrord. American shellfire 
finally drove the enemy away from the 
bank, necessitating a new effort in broad 
daylight farther to the north. The enemy 
infantry would outnumber the Ameri- 
cans opposing them in the combat area, 
but on 17 December the Germans in the 
bridgehead would meet a far greater 
weight of artillery fire than they could 
direct against the Americans and would 
find it difficult to deal with American 
tanks. The superiority in tanks main- 
tained by the 4th Infantry Division 
throughout this operation would effec- 
tively checkmate the larger numbers of 
the German infantry. 

Fighting on 17 December took place 
along the axes of three principal German 
penetrations: on the American left flank 
at Berdorf, Consdorf, and Miillerthal; in 
the center along the Echternach-Lauter- 
born-Scheidgen road; and on the right in 



the Osweiler-Dickweiler sector. 

About three hours before dawn. Gen- 
eral Barton, concerned over his left 
flank, dispatched the 4th Engineer Com- 
bat Battalion and 4th Cavalry Recon- 
naissance Troop to Breitweiler, a small 
village overlooking the wishbone ter- 
minus of the Schwarz Erntz gorge and 
the ganglia ravine roads which branched 
thence into the 12 th Infantry flank and 
rear. The Schwarz Erntz gorge lay with- 
in the 4th Infantry Division zone but in 
fact provided a natural cleavage between 
the 4th Division and the gth Armored 
Division. Both units would therefore be 
involved in guarding the cross-corridors 
and ravines which stemmed from the 
gorge itself. The advance of the 42^4 
Regiment across the Berdorf plateau on 
16 December had reached the winding 
defile leading down into the gorge west 
of Berdorf village, there wiping out a 
squad of infantry and one 57-mm. anti- 
tank gun which had been placed here to 
block the gorge road. When the 4th Divi- 
sion reserves arrived in Breitweiler on 
the morning of 17 December the threat 
of a flanking move through the gorge 
was very real but the Americans had 
time to dig in. 

At 0936 American observers reported 
a very large force moving along the 
bottom of the gorge, and at 1044, "5 
companies counted and still coming." 
What had been seen were troops of the 
p8yth Regiment, the reserve regiment 
of the 2y6th Volks Grenadier Division, 
then attacking in the gth Armored Divi- 
sion sector. Company C, 70th Tank Bat- 
talion, now had eight tanks in running 
condition and these were hurried to 
Breitweiler to reinforce the cavalry and 
engineers. Two platoons from Company 
A, 19th Tank Battalion, which had just 



246 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 




Breitweiler 



arrived from the gth Armored, the as- 
sault gun and mortar platoons of the 
70th Tank Battalion, a battery of 105- 
mm. howitzers, the reconnaissance com- 
pany of the 803d Tank Destroyer Battal- 
ion, and the 2d Battalion, 8th Infantry, 
were hastily assembled in Colbet, a mile 
and a half south of Miillerthal, and 
organized at 1 104 as Task Force Luckett 
(Col. James S. Luckett) . 

An hour earlier the tank destroyer 
reconnaissance company had begun a 
long-range fire fight but the German ad- 
vance guard, despite heavy shelling from 
three field artillery battalions and every 
self-propelled piece which could be 
brought to bear, drove straight on to 



Miillerthal. Consdorf, the command post 
of the 2d Battalion, 12th Infantry, was 
left open to an attack from Miillerthal 
up the Hertgrund ravine. Major Gorn 
organized a hasty defense with a few 
cooks, MP's, stragglers, and one tank, but 
the blow did not fall. The pS'yth Regi- 
ment failed to emerge from the gorge 
and even may have withdrawn from 
Miillerthal, after beating off the counter- 
attack launched there in the afternoon 
by elements of the gth Armored Divi- 
sion. 

The failure on the part of the p8yth 
to push past Miillerthal on 17 December 
or to overflow from the gorge onto the 
flanks of the two American units remains 



THE GERMAN SOUTHERN SHOULDER IS JAMMED 



247 



a mystery. Possibly this failure is ex- 
plained by the lack of heavy weapons 
needed to blast a way up from the gorge 
bottom. Possibly the American artillery 
and self-propelled guns had disorganized 
and disheartened the German infantry; 
prisoners later reported that shell frag- 
ments from the tree bursts in the bottom 
of the wooded gorge "sounded like fall- 
ing apples" and caused heavy casualties. 
Whatever the reason, this enemy pene- 
tration went no further than Miillerthal. 
By early afternoon, however, a new 
threat was looming in the Consdorf area, 
this time from an enemy penetration on 
the right along the Scheidgen section of 
the main highroad to Echternach. This 
turned out to be only a patrol action and 
the enemy was quickly beaten off. 

Early in the day Company B and ten 
tanks from the 70th Tank Battalion re- 
newed the attack at Berdorf in an at- 
tempt to break through to Company F, 
still encircled at the opposite end of the 
village. This time the tanks deployed on 
the roads and trails south of Berdorf and 
moved in with five riflemen on each tank 
deck. The five medium tanks drove 
through to the northeastern edge and 
just before noon began shelling the Pare 
Hotel in the mistaken belief that it was 
held by the enemy. One of the Company 
F men had been rummaging about and 
had found an American flag. This was 
unfurled on the shattered roof. Contact 
thus established, an assault was launched 
to clear Berdorf. But the Germans de- 
fending the houses were heavily armed 
with bazookas and the tanks made little 
progress. At dark the Americans drew 
laack to the hotel, while the Germans 
plastered the area with rockets, artillery, 
and mortar shells, lobbed in from across 



the river.^ 

In the central sector Companies A and 
G, with five light tanks, started from 
Lauterborn along the road to Echter- 
nach. The enemy here was in consider- 
able strength and had established 
observation posts on the ridges ringing 
Lauterborn and bordering the road. 
Heavy and accurate shellfire followed 
each American move. When the day 
ended the relief force had accomplished 
no more than consolidating a defensive 
position in Lauterborn. In Echternach 
Company E, 13 th Infantry, had occupied 
a two-block strongpoint from which it 
harassed the German troops trying to 
move through the town. No large-scale 
assault was attempted this day, appar- 
ently because the enemy was still wait- 
ing for guns to cross the river. Troops 
from the j2oth Regiment and fusilier 
battalion circled around Echternach and 
Lauterborn meanwhile in an attempt to 
cut the main road at Scheidgen. The 
platoon from Company A, 13 th Infantry, 
which had been posted on Hill 313 the 
day before, fell back to Scheidgen and 
there was overwhelmed after a last mes- 
sage pleading for tank destroyers. At the 
day's end only the regimental antitank 
company, numbering some sixty men, 
stood between the enemy and the 2d 
Battalion command post at Consdorf. 

Although the German penetrations on 
the left and in the center of the 12th 
Infantry sector deepened during the day, 
the situation on the right was relatively 
encouraging. At the break of day on 17 
December Company C, the 12th Infantry 
reserve, moved out of Herborn en route 



- 1st Sgt. Gervis Willis later was awarded the 
DSC for his conduct in the defense of Berdorf. 



248 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



to join the two companies beleaguered 
in Osweiler. As Company C worked its 
way through the woods south of Osweiler 
the left platoon ran head on into the 
2d Battalion. ^2oth Infantry; all the 
platoon members were killed or cap- 
tured. By some chance the two platoons 
on the right missed the German hive. In 
the meantime the ad Battalion, 2 2d In- 
fantry (Lt. Col. Thomas A. Kenan) , had 
arrived in the 12th Infantry zone. Com- 
pany F was mounted on tanks from the 
19th Tank Battalion, which had just 
come in from the gth Armored Division, 
and also set out for Osweiler. This force 
arrived on the scene shortly after the 
enactment of the German ambush, 
fought a short sharp engagement, res- 
cued some of the prisoners from Com- 
pany C, and pushed on into Osweiler. 

With this reinforcement a new de- 
fensive line was organized on the hills 
just east of the village. The original de- 
fenders had taken a large bag of prison- 
ers the previous day; these were sent 
back to Herborn with a tank platoon. In 
midafternoon the remaining companies 
of the 2d Battalion, 22d Infantry, started 
for Osweiler, advancing in column 
through the woods which topped a ridge 
line running southwest of the village. 
While the American column moved in 
a northeasterly direction, a German col- 
umn, probably a battalion in strength, 
suddenly intersected the 2d Battalion 
line of march. In the fire fight which 
followed the 2d Battalion companies be- 
came separated, but the early winter 
darkness soon ended the skirmish. The 
Americans dug in for the night, and the 
Germans passed on toward Scheidgen. 

In Dickweiler the troops of the 3d 
Battalion, 12th Infantry, had been har- 
assed by small forays from the woods 



above the village. The three tanks which 
had come up the evening before, and 
very effective fire by American batteries, 
put an end to these German efforts. Thus 
both Osweiler and Dickweiler remained 
tight in American hands. Toward the 
close of day Company C of the 12 th In- 
fantry took position on some high 
ground between and slightly south of the 
two villages, thus extending the line 
here on the right. 

General Barton's headquarters saw 
the situation on the evening of 17 De- 
cember as follows. The 3d Battalion and 
its reinforcements had "a semblance of 
a line" to meet further penetration in 
the vicinity of Osweiler and Dickweiler. 
On the opposite flank things were tem- 
porarily under control, with Task Force 
Luckett not yet seriously engaged and 
the enemy advance thus far checked at 
Miillerthal. However, there was a pres- 
ent danger that the large German force 
might turn the 4th Division flank by a 
successful attack through the gth Ar- 
mored Division blocking position at 
Waldbillig. All that could be said of the 
12th Infantry center was that the situa- 
tion was fluid, for here the road junction 
at Scheidgen was in enemy hands and 
German detachments were on the loose. 

Across the river at the headquarters 
of the 212th Volks Grenadier Division 
there was little realization of the extent 
to which the American center had been 
dented. General Sensfuss told his supe- 
riors that the 212th had made little 
progress beyond completing the encircle- 
ment of Echternach. Despite the com- 
plete surprise won by the 212th on 16 
December, it had been unable to effect 
either a really deep perietration or ex- 
tensive disorganization in the 12th In- 
fantry zone. With the close of the second 



THE GERMAN SOUTHERN SHOULDER IS JAMMED 



249 



day it may be said that the German 
opportunity to exploit the initial sur- 
prise and attendant tactical gains com- 
menced to fade. 

On the morning of 17 December 
the loth Armored Division (General 
Morris) had moved out of Thionville 
for Luxembourg, the first step (al- 
though at the time not realized) which 
General Patton's Third Army would 
make to intervene in the battle of the 
Ardennes. General Morris drove ahead 
of his troops and reported to General 
Middleton at Bastogne. The VIII Corps 
commander originally had intended to 
use a part of the 10th Armored in direct 
support of the 28th Division, but now he 
instructed Morris to send one combat 
command to the Bastogne area and to 
commit the remainder of the 10th Ar- 
mored with the 4th Infantry Division in 
a counterattack to drive the Germans 
back over the Sauer. General Middleton 
regarded the German advance against 
the southern shoulder of his corps as 
potentially dangerous, both to the corps 
and to the command and communica- 
tions center at Luxembourg City. There 
was, of course, no means by which the 
VIII Corps cornmander could know that 
the Seventh Army scheme of maneuver 
was limited to a swing only as far as 
Mersch, eight miles north of the city. 

General Morris left Bastogne and 
met the 4th Infantry Division com- 
mandeer in Luxembourg. The two 
were of one mind on the need for coun- 
terattack tactics and arranged that CCA 
(Brig. Gen. Edwin W. Piburn) , the 
leading combat command, should make 
an immediate drive to the north be- 
tween the Schwarz Erntz gorge and the 
main Echternach-Luxembourg road. 
CCA made good speed on the 75-mile 



run from Thionville, but the leading 
armor did not arrive in the 12 th In- 
fantry area until late in the afternoon 
of 17 December. Apparently some troops 
went at once into the line, but the ac- 
tual counterattack was postponed until 
the next morning. Then, so the plan 
read, CCA would advance in three task 
forces: one through the Schwarz Erntz 
gorge; one on the Consdorf-Berdorf 
road; and the third through Scheidgen 
to Echternach. The infantry to the front 
were alerted for their role in the com- 
bined attack and half-tracks with radios 
were moved close to the line of depar- 
ture as relay stations in the tank-infantry 
communications net. 

The counterattack moved off on the 
morning of 18 December in a thick 
winter fog. On the left. Task Force 
Chamberlain (Lt. Col. Thomas C. 
Chamberlain) dispatched a small tank- 
infantry team from Breitweiler into the 
gorge. The Schwarz Erntz, taking its 
name from the rushing stream twisting 
along its bottom, is a depression lying 
from three to five hundred feet be- 
low the surrounding tableland. At sev- 
eral points canyonlike cliffs rise sheer 
for a hundred feet. The floor of the 
gorge is strewn with great boulders; 
dense patches of woods line the depres- 
sion and push down to the edge of the 
stream. In time of peace the gorge 
of the Schwarz Erntz offered a pictur- 
esque "promenade" for holiday visitors 
in the resort hotels at Berdorf and Beau- 
fort, with "bancs de repos" at conven- 
ient intervals. In December, 1944, the 
gorge represented a formidable military 
obstacle, difficult of traverse for both foot 
troops and vehicles, capable of defense 
by only a few. 

The entrance to the gorge was so 



250 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



narrow that the tanks had to advance in 
single file, and only the lead tank could 
fire. The accompanying infantry were 
under constant bullet fire; and when the 
lead tank was immobilized by an anti- 
tank projectile some time was required 
to maneuver the rest of the column 
around it. With every yard forward, ba- 
zooka, bullet, and mortar fire increased, 
but the enemy remained hidden. Finally, 
the Americans halted near the T in the 
gorge road just south of Miillerthal. 

It was clear that to capture Miillerthal, 
or even to block the southern exit from 
the gorge, the surrounding hills and 
tableland had to be won. The infan- 
try and engineers belonging to Task 
Force Luckett were given this mission, 
advancing in the afternoon to bypass 
Miillerthal on the west and seize the 
wooded bluff standing above the gorge 
road north of Miillerthal. Tanks 
pumped seven hundred rounds into the 
woods to shake the Germans there, but 
little time was left in the short winter 
day and the foot soldiers only got across 
the Miillerthal-Waldbillig road. 

The center task force (Lt. Col. Miles 
L. Standish) , which had been assigned 
to help the 2d Battalion, 12th Infantry, 
clear the enemy from Berdorf, had lit- 
tle better success. Elements of Task 
Force Standish were strafed by a pair 
of German planes but moved into Ber- 
dorf against only desultory opposition 
and before noon made contact with the 
two companies and six tanks already in 
the village. Then the German gunners 
laid down smoke and a bitter three-hour 
barrage, disabled some tanks and half- 
tracks, and drove the Americans to cover. 
When the fire lifted the attack was re- 
sumed, but the enemy fought stubborn- 
ly for each house. This house-to-house 



assault gained only seventy-five yards 
before darkness intervened. Meanwhile 
the sixty-some members of Company 
F remained in the Pare Hotel, whose 
roof and upper story had been smashed 
in by German shelling. Pole charges 
or bazooka rounds had blasted a gaping 
hole in one side of the hotel, but thus 
far only one man had been wounded. 
Morale was good, bolstered superbly 
by the company cook who did his best 
to emulate the "cuisine soignee" prom- 
ised in the hotel brochures by pre- 
paring hot meals in the basement and 
serving the men at their firing posts. 

While part of Task Force Standish 
was engaged in Berdorf, another team 
attacked through heavy underbrush to- 
ward Hill 329, east of Berdorf, which 
overlooked the road to Echternach. 
Despite the presence of the tanks, which 
here could maneuver off the road, the 
infantry were checked halfway to their 
objective by cross fire from machine 
guns flanking the slope and artillery 
fire from beyond the Sauer. About forty 
men were wounded, creating a problem 
for evacuation by this small force. 

The third task force from CCA, 10th 
Armored (led by Lt. Col J. R. 
Riley) , made good progress in its attack 
along the Scheidgen-Lauterborn axis. 
Scheidgen was retaken early in the after- 
noon virtually without a fight (the Ger- 
man battalion which had seized the 
village had already moved on toward the 
south) . Five tanks and two companies 
of the 1 59th Engineer Combat Battalion, 
which Barton had located on the road 
job as promised by Middleton, then 
launched a surprise attack against the 
Germans on Hill 513, overlooking the 
road to Lauterborn. The tanks rolled 
down the road from Scheidgen with 



THE GERMAN SOUTHERN SHOULDER IS JAMMED 



251 



their motors cut and caught the enemy 
on the slopes while the engineers moved 
in with marching fire. But a thick win- 
ter fog rolled in before the Americans 
could occupy the hill. Other elements 
of Task Force Riley meanwhile had ad- 
vanced to the mill beyond Lauterborn 
where the command post of Company 
G was located. Two tanks and two 
squads of riflemen continued along 
the main road to the hat factory 
at the southwestern edge of Ech- 
ternach where Company E, 12th In- 
fantry, had established itself. Here the 
company was found to be in good spirits, 
supplied with plenty of food and wine, 
and holding its own to the tune of over 
a hundred of the enemy killed. The 
tank commander offered to cover the 
withdrawal of Company E from the 
city, but Capt. Paul H. Dupuis, the sen- 
ior officer in Echternach, refused on 
the ground that General Barton's "no 
retrograde movement" order of 16 De- 
cember was still in effect.* As darkness 
settled in, the small relief force turned 
back to the mill north of Lauterborn, 
promising to return on the morrow 
with more troops. 

While CCA, 10th Armored, gave 
weight to the 4th Division counterattack. 
General Barton tried to strengthen the 
12th Infantry right flank in the Osweiler- 
Dickweiler sector. The 2d Battalion, 22d 
Infantry, which had met the German 
column in the woods west of Osweiler 
the day before, headed for the village 
on the morning of 18 December. The 
last word to reach Osweiler had been 
that the 2d Battalion was under serious 

" General Barton says that he told the tank 
commander to inform Captain Dupuis that his 
order to hold in Echternach was revoked, but 
apparently this message was not delivered. Ltr, 
Gen Barton to author, 17 Nov 59. 



attack in the woods; when the battalion 
neared the village the American tanks 
there opened fire, under suspicion that 
this was a German force. After two 
hours, and some casualties, a patrol 
bearing a white flag worked its way in 
close enough for recognition. Osweiler 
now had a garrison of one tank company 
and four understrength rifle companies. 

As the American reinforcements 
stiffened the right flank and the ar- 
mored task forces grappled to wrest the 
initiative from the enemy on the left, 
German troops widened and deepened 
the dent in the 12th Infantry center, 
shouldering their way southward 
between Scheidgen and Osweiler. The 
burden of this advance was carried by 
battalions of the ^2oth Regiment (which 
explains the relaxing of pressure in the 
Osweiler-Dickweiler area) , and the ad- 
vance guard of the ^i6th Regiment 
which General Sensfuss had pried from 
the Seventh Army reserve by reporting 
the arrival of the 10th Armored Division. 

The first appearance of any enemy 
force deep in the center occurred near 
Maisons Lelligen, a collection of two 
or three houses on the edge of a large 
wood northwest of Herborn. The 12th 
Infantry cannon company was just mov- 
ing up to a new position when fire 
opened from the wood. The drivers and 
gunners dived for cover and returned 
fire. After a few minutes of this ex- 
change Sgt. J. C. Kolinski got up, ran 
back to a truck, fixed a round, and fired 
it from a howitzer still coupled to the 
truck. This idea caught on and other 
men started to serve the howitzers, 
awkward as the technique was, some 
firing at ranges as short as sixty yards. 
Ammunition at the pieces ultimately 
gave out, but a volunteer raced to the 



252 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



rear of the column and drove an am- 
munition truck, its canvas smouldering 
from German bullets, up to the gun 
crews. The action lasted for over three 
hours. At last two howitzers were man- 
handled into a position from which 
they could cover the company; guns and 
vehicles were laboriously turned around 
in the mud, and the company withdrew. 

Farther to the west another part of 
the German force which had come from 
Scheidgen surrounded the rear head- 
quarters of the 2d Battalion, 2 2d In- 
fantry, and a platoon of towed tank de- 
stroyers in Geyershof. Tanks en route 
to Osweiler got word of this situation, 
picked up twenty-five cannoneers from 
the 176th Field Artillery Battalion, and 
intervened in the fight. Covered by this 
counterattack the battalion headquar- 
ters withdrew to Herborn. 

The engagements at Geyershof and 
Maisons Lelligen were comparatively 
minor affairs, involving only small 
forces, but German prisoners later re- 
ported that their losses had been severe 
at both these points. This fact, com- 
bined with the American pressure on 
either shoulder of the penetration area, 
may explain why the enemy failed to 
continue the push in the center as 18 
December ended. 

The net day's operations amounted 
to a stand-off. The Americans had 
strengthened the Osweiler-Dickweiler 
position, but the Germans had extended 
their penetration in the 12 th Infantry 
center. Elsewhere neither side clearly 
held the field. Enemy artillery had 
interdicted many of the roads in the 
area and had been very effective at 
Berdorf. American artillery, now in- 
creased in the 12th Infantry zone, gave 
as good support as communications 



permitted and succeeded in destroying 
a ponton bridge at the Echternach site 
before it could be put in use. Both sides 
were forced to rely largely upon radio 
communication, but it would appear 
that the Germans had particular dif- 
ficulty: prisoners reported that "nobody 
seems to know where anybody else is." 

American intelligence officers esti- 
mated on 17 December that the enemy 
had a superiority in numbers of three 
to one; by the end of 18 December the 
balance was somewhat restored. Losses 
and stragglers, however, had reduced 
the American infantry companies, al- 
ready understrength at the opening of 
the battle. The two companies in Berdorf 
reported a combined strength of sev- 
enty-nine men, while the 2d Battalion of 
the 2 2d Infantry listed an average of on- 
ly sixty in each company. The Amer- 
ican makeweight would have to be its 
armor. Lacking tanks and self-propelled 
artillery, the 212th Volks Grenadier 
Division had to rely on the infantry. 
Accordingly, the ji6th Infantry began to 
cross the Sauer, moving up behind the 
center of the parent division. 

During the night of 18-19 December 
the 9th Armored Division (-) withdrew 
to a new line of defense on the left of the 
4th Infantry Division. Actually the 9th 
Armored (-) did not abandon the right 
flank anchor at Waldbillig and so contin- 
ued direct contact with the friendly 
forces deployed near the Waldbillig- 
Miillerthal road. The problem of dealing 
with the p8yth Regiment and clearing 
the enemy out of the Schwarz Erntz 
gorge, or containing him there, was left 
to the 4th Division and CCA, 10th Ar- 
mored. As a result, these two units faced 
four German regiments in the 12 th In- 
fantry sector. Of the 4th Division, it must 



THE GERMAN SOUTHERN SHOULDER IS JAMMED 



253 



be remembered, four rifle battalions still 
were retained on guard along the twenty 
miles of the division front south of the 
battle area. 

When the Americans resumed the 
counterattack early on 19 December 
Task Force Luckett made another at- 
tempt to bring forward the extreme left 
flank in the gorge sector. As before, the 
maneuver was a flanking movement 
designed to seize the high ground over- 
looking Miillerthal. Troops of the 2d 
Battalion, 8th Infantry (Lt. Col. George 
Mabry) , with tanks and armored field 
artillery firing in support, first attacked 
east from Waldbillig to take the wooded 
nose around which looped the Wald- 
billig-Miillerthal road. This advance 
was made across open fields and was 
checked by extremely heavy shellfire. 
Next Mabry shifted his attack to the 
right so as to bring the infantry through 
the draw which circled the nose. Com- 
pany E, which had about seventy men 
and was the strongest in the battalion, led 
off. By now the German artillery was 
ranged inaccurately. The casualties suf- 
fered by Company E cannot be num- 
bered, but have been reported as the most 
severe sustained by any company of the 
4th Division in the battle of the Ar- 
dennes. Casualties among the officers left 
a lieutenant who had just joined the com- 
pany in command. Despite its losses 
Company E drove on, clearing the Ger- 
mans from the lower slopes before the 
recall order was given. 

The division commander now called 
off the attack and assigned Task Force 
Luckett the mission of denying the en- 
emy the use of the road net at Miiller- 
thal, a task which could be accomplished 
in less costly fashion. Colonel Luckett 
deployed his troops along the ridge 



southwest of the Miillerthal-Waldbillig 
road, and a log abatis wired with mines 
and covered by machine guns was 
erected to block the valley road south of 
Miillerthal. Task Force Chamberlain, 
whose tanks had given fire support to 
Task Force Luckett, moved during the 
afternoon to a backstop position near 
Consdorf. 

The tank-infantry counterattack by 
Task Forces Standish and Riley in the 
Berdorf and Echternach areas also re- 
sumed. The enemy resisted wherever en- 
countered, but spent most of the daylight 
hours regrouping in wooded draws and 
hollows and bringing reinforcements 
across the river, stepping up his artillery 
fire the while. Intense fog shielded all 
this activity. Apparently the assembly of 
the }i6th Regiment behind the 212th 
Folks Grenadier Division center was 
completed during the day. A few rocket 
projectors and guns were ferried over at 
the civilian ferry site above Echternach, 
and about the middle of the afternoon a 
bridge was finished at Edingen, where 
the ^2oth Regiment had crossed on 16 
December. The American counterattack 
on the 1 9th, then, first would be opposed 
by infantry and infantry weapons, but 
would meet heavier metal and some ar- 
mor as the day ended. 

At Berdorf a team from Task Force 
Standish and a platoon of armored en- 
gineers set to work mopping up the en- 
emy infantry who had holed up in 
houses on the north side of the village. 
This proved to be slow work. First a 
ten-pound pole charge would be ex- 
ploded against a wall or house; then a 
tank would clank up to the gap and blast 
away; finally the infantry would go to 
work with grenades and their shoulder 
weapons. At dark the Germans had lost 



254 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



a few houses, but were in the process o£ 
being reinforced by Nehelwerfers and 
armored vehicles. 

Other troops of Task Force Standish 
returned to the attack at Hill 329, on the 
Berdorf-Echternach road, where they 
had been checked by flanking fire the 
previous day. Sharp assault destroyed 
the German machine gun positions and 
the attack reached the ridge leading to 
Hill 329. Then the advance had to be 
halted short of the objective in order to 
free the tanks and half-tracks for use 
in evacuating the large number of 
wounded. This ambulance convoy was 
en route to Consdorf, in the late after- 
noon, when a radio message reported 
that the Germans had cut the road north 
of Consdorf and bazooka 'd two tanks on 
their way back from Berdorf for am- 
munition. The wounded were left in 
Berdorf and the task force tanks, ham- 
pered by milling civilian refugees, began 
a nightlong fire fight with the 2d Bat- 
talion, 42^d Regiment, which had con- 
centrated to capture Consdorf. 

Task Force Riley sent tanks carrying 
infantry into the edge of Echternach on 
the morning of 19 December. There they 
re-established contact with Company E 
and covered the withdrawal of outlying 
detachments to the hat factory. The 1 2th 
Infantry commander already had given 
permission for Company E to evacuate 
Echternach, but communications were 
poor— indeed word that the tanks 
had reached Company E did not arrive 
at the 12 th Infantry command post until 
four hours after the event— and the relief 
force turned back to Lauterborn alone. 
The tanks were hardly out of sight be- 
fore the Germans began an assault on 
the hat factory with bazookas, demoli- 
tion charges, and an armored assault 



gun. Two volunteers were dispatched in 
a jeep to make a run for Lauterborn, 
carrying word that enemy tanks were 
moving into the city and asking for 
"help and armor." The two, last of the 
Americans to come out of Echternach, 
made the run safely despite direct fire 
aimed by the German assault gun. At 
Lauterborn, however, they were told 
that the tanks could not be risked in 
Echternach after dark. American artil- 
lery observers by the failing light saw 
"troops pouring into Echternach." Or- 
ders were radioed to Company E (a 
fresh battery for its radio had been 
brought in by the tanks) to fight its way 
out during the night. It was too late. 
The defenders had been split up by the 
German assault and the company com- 
mander had to report that he could not 
organize a withdrawal. Through the 
night of 19-20 December Riley's tanks 
waited on the road just north of Lauter- 
born, under orders from the Command- 
ing General, CCA, not to attempt a 
return through the dark to Echternach. 

Although the fighting on 19 December 
had been severe on the American left, 
a general lull prevailed along the rest of 
the line. The enemy made no move to 
push deeper in the center. The combat 
engineers in Scheidgen returned to Hill 
313 and occupied it without a fight. A 
few small affrays occurred in the Os- 
weiler-Dickweiler sector, but that was 
all. By nightfall the situation seemed 
much improved— despite the increased 
pressure on the 4th Division companies 
closely invested in the north. Both flanks 
were nailed down, and the German at- 
tack seemed to have lost momentum. 

Elsewhere on the VIII Corps front the 
enemy advance was picking up speed 
and reinforcements were rolling forward 



THE GERMAN SOUTHERN SHOULDER IS JAMMED 



255 



to widen the avenues of penetration be- 
hind the panzers. Reports that two new 
German divisions were en route to attack 
the 109th Infantry and 9th Armored 
Division had reached General Morris, 
coming by way of the i8th Army Group 
intelligence agencies. If this additional 
weight should be thrown against the thin 
American line immediately to the north 
of the 4th Infantry Division, there was 
every likelihood that the line would 
break. 

It was imperative that the line be 
held. Troops of the Third Army were al- 
ready on the move north, there to form 
the cutting edge of a powerful thrust in- 
to the southern flank of the German 
advance. The 109th Infantry, the 9th 
Armored Division, the 4th Infantry Divi- 
sion, and CCA, loth Armored Division, 
had to win both the time and the space 
required for the assembly of the Ameri- 
can counterattack forces. General Patton, 
commanding the Third Army, to which 
the V'lII Corps was now assigned, gave 
General Morris a provisional corps on 
19 December, composed of the loth Ar- 
mored Division (— ) , the 9th Armored, 
the 109th Infantry, and the 4th Infantry 
Division. Morris, now charged with uni- 
fying defensive measures while the 
Third Army counterattack forces gath- 
ered behind this cover, alerted CCA, 
loth Armored Division, early on the 
morning of 20 December, for employ- 
ment as a mobile reserve. Morris had 
already dispatched one of his armored 
infantry battalions to help the gth Ar- 
mored in an attack intended to retake 
Waldbillig. Task Force Chamberlain 
had been placed in reserve the previous 
day, but it was not immediately feasible 
to withdraw the two task forces that 
were still engaged alongside the 4th 



Division for it would take General Bar- 
ton's division a few hours to reorganize 
on a new line and plug the gaps left 
by the outgoing armored units. 

While General Morris made plans to 
hold the ground needed as a springboard 
for the projected counterattack. General 
Beyer, commanding the German LXXX 
Corps, prepared to meet an American 
riposte. Higher German headquarters 
had anticipated the appearance of some 
American reinforcements opposite the 
LXXX Corps as early as the third day 
of the operation. Intervention by ele- 
ments of the loth Armored Division on 
18 December, as a result, was viewed 
only as the prelude to a sustained and 
forceful American attempt to regain the 
initiative. It cannot now be determined 
whether the German agents (V-Leute) , 
who undoubtedly were operating be- 
hind American lines, had correctly diag- 
nosed the beginning of the Third Army 
shift toward Luxembourg and Belgium, 
or, if so, whether they had been able to 
communicate with the German field 
headquarters. 

In any event the LXXX Corps com- 
mander decided on the night of 19 De- 
cember to place his corps on the defen- 
sive, his estimate of the situation being 
as follows. His two divisions generally 
had reached the line designated as the 
LXXX Corps objective. The force avail- 
able was insufficient to continue the 
attack. On the north flank there was a 
dangerous and widening gap between 
the LXXX Corps and the LXXXV 
Corps. The supply situation was poor 
and could become critical, in part be- 
cause of the Allied air attacks at the 
Rhine crossings, in part because of the 
Allied success— even during poor flying 
weather— in knocking out transportation 



256 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



and forward supply dumps in the Trier- 
Bitburg area. A large-scale American 
counterattack against the LXXX Corps 
could be predicted, but lacking aerial 
reconnaissance German intelligence 
could not expect to determine the time 
or strength of such an attack with any 
accuracy. General Beyer's orders for 20 
December, therefore, called upon the 
212th and 2y6th Volks Grenadier Divi- 
sions to crush the small points of resist- 
ance where American troops still con- 
tended behind the German main forces, 
continue local attacks and counterattacks 
in order to secure more favorable 
ground for future defense, and close up 
along a co-ordinated corps front in prep- 
aration for the coming American on- 
slaught. 

On 20 December there was savage 
fighting in the 4th Infantry Division 
zone despite the fact that both of the 
combatants were in the process of going 
over to the defensive. The 4th Division 
and 10th Armored sought to disengage 
their advance elements and regroup 
along a stronger main line of resistance, 
and the enemy fought to dislodge the 
American foothold in Berdorf and Ech- 
ternach. At the same time elements of 
the 2y6th Volks Grenadier Division 
struck through Waldbillig, the point of 
contact between the 4th Division and 
the 9th Armored, in an attempt to push 
the right wing of the LXXX Corps for- 
ward to a point where the road net lead- 
ing east to the Sauer might be more 
easily denied the gathering American 
forces. 

The team from Task Force Standish 
had made little progress in its house-to- 
house battle in Berdorf. Company F, 
12th Infantry, retained its position in 
the Pare Hotel, despite a German demo- 



lition charge that exploded early in the 
morning of the 20th and blew in part of 
one wall. After a short melee in the 
darkness American hand grenades dis- 
couraged the assault at this breach and 
the enemy withdrew to a line of foxholes 
which had been dug during the night 
close to the hotel. When the fight died 
down one of the defenders found that 
the blast had opened a sealed annex in 
the basement, the hiding place of several 
score bottles of fine liquor and a full 
barrel of beer. Lieutenant Leake re- 
fused permission to sample this cache, a 
decision he would regret when, after 
withdrawal from Berdorf, he and 
twenty-one of his men were returned to 
the foxhole line with neither their coats 
nor blankets. 

At daylight on 20 December the ist 
Battalion, ^2^d Regiment, which had 
been brought in from the Lauterborn 
area, initiated a counterattack against 
the team from Task Force Standish at 
the edge of Berdorf and recovered all 
the ground lost during the previous two 
days. The American artillery forward 
observer's tank was crippled by a ba- 
zooka and the radio put out of commis- 
sion, but eventually word reached the 
supporting artillery, which quickly 
drove the enemy to cover. Although the 
evacuation of Berdorf was part of the 
4th Division plan for redressing its line, 
the actual withdrawal was none too easy. 
The Germans had cut the road back to 
Consdorf; so the right team of Task 
Force Standish was withdrawn from the 
attack on Hill 329 and spent most of the 
afternoon clearing an exit for the men 
and vehicles in Berdorf. Finally, a little 
after dark, Companies B and F (12th 
Infantry) , ten engineers, and four 
squads of armored infantry loaded onto 



THE GERMAN SOUTHERN SHOULDER IS JAMMED 



257 



eleven tanks and six half-tracks and 
made their way past burning buildings 
to the new 4th Division line north and 
east of Consdorf. 

The elements of Task Force Riley, 
which had waited outside of Lauterborn 
through the night of 19-20 December in 
vain expectation that Company E would 
attempt to break out of Echternach, re- 
ceived a radio message at 0823 that 
Company E was surrounded by tanks and 
could not get out. Through the morning 
rumors and more rumors poured over 
the American radio nets, but there was 
no sign of Company E. About noon Colo- 
nel Riley agreed to send a few tanks in 
one final effort to reach the infantry in 
Echternach, provided that the 12th In- 
fantry would give his tanks some pro- 
tection. Company G, therefore, was 
assigned this task. At 1330 a report 
reached the 12 th Infantry that Company 
E had gotten out. Half an hour later 
this report was denied; now a message 
said the company was coming out in 
small groups. Finally, in the late after- 
noon. Colonel Chance sent a call over 
the radio relay system: "Where is 
Riley?" Thirty minutes later the answer 
came back from CCA: a section of tanks 
and some riflemen were fighting at the 
outskirts of Echternach. 

This was the last effort. Night had 
come, Echternach was swarming with 
Germans, and the loth Armored Divi- 
sion headquarters had ordered all its 
teams to reassemble behind the 4th 
Division lines preparatory to moving "in 
any direction." Since most of Task Force 
Riley by this time had reverted to the 
reserve, Lauterborn, the base for opera- 
tions against Echternach, was aban- 
doned. Company G, now some forty 
men, and the last of Riley's tanks with- 



drew to the new main line of resistance. 
It is probable that the Americans in 
Echternach were forced to surrender 
late on 20 December. General Sensfuss 
had determined to erase the stubborn 
garrison and led the 212th Fusilier Bat- 
talion and some assault guns (or tanks) 
in person to blast the Americans loose. 
The commander of the 212th folks 
Grenadier Division received a slight 
wound but had the satisfaction of taking 
the surrender of the troublesome Amer- 
icans, about 1 1 1 officers and men from 
Company E, plus 21 men belonging to 
Company H. On this same day the Com- 
pany F outpost which had held out at 
Birkelt Farm since 16 December capitu- 
lated. 

Finally the enemy had control of most 
of the northern section of the road net 
between the Sauer River and Luxem- 
bourg—but it was too late. The new 
American line, running from Dickweiler 
through Osweiler, Hill 313, Consdorf, to 
south of Miillerthal, was somewhat weak 
in the center but solidly anchored at the 
flanks. The German attack through the 
gth Armored sector beyond Waldbillig 
had been checked. At the opposite end of 
the line enemy guns and mortars worked 
feverishly to bring down Dickweiler 
around the ears of the defenders, but the 
Americans could not be shelled out. 
(When one blast threw a commode and 
sink from a second story down on the 
rear deck of a tank the crew simply com- 
plained that no bathing facilities had 
been provided.) At Bech, behind the 
American center, General Barton now 
had the 3d Battalion, 2 2d Infantry, in 
reserve, having further stripped the 4th 
Division right. And in and around Eisen- 
born, CCA, 10th Armored Division, was 
assembling to counter any German at- 



258 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



tack. Barton's troops and Morris' tanks 
had brought the 212th and the 2y6th 
Volks Grenadier Division to a halt, had 
then withdrawn most o£ their advance 
detachments successfully, and now held 
a stronger position on a shortened line. 
The southern shoulder of the German 
counteroffensive had jammed. 

Southern Flank— A Summing Up 

The Seventh Army had thrown three 
of its four divisions into the surprise at- 
tack at the Sauer River on 16 December. 
The Americans had met this onslaught 
with two infantry regiments (the 12th 
and 109th) , an armored infantry battal- 
ion (the Goth) , and an understrength 
tank battalion (the 70th) , these units 
and others attached making the total 
approximately division strength. The 
stubborn and successful defense of 
towns and villages close to the Sauer had 
blocked the road net, so essential to 
movement in this rugged country, and 
barred a quick sweep into the American 
rear areas. 

In like manner the enemy had failed 
in the quick accomplishment of one of 
his major tasks, that is, overrunning the 
American artillery positions or at the 
least forcing the guns to withdraw to 
positions from which they could no 
longer interdict the German bridge sites. 
General Barton, it may be added, had 
refused absolutely to permit the artillery 
to move rearward. The failure to open 
the divisional bridges over the Sauer 
within the first twenty-four hours had 
forced the German infantry to continue 
to fight without their accustomed heavy 
weapons support even while American 
reinforcements were steadily reducing 
the numerical edge possessed by the 
attacker. Further, the German inability 



to meet the American tanks with tanks 
or heavy antimechanized means gave the 
American rifleman an appreciable moral 
superiority (particularly toward the end 
of the battle) over his German counter- 
part. 

It should be added that Seventh Army 
divisions suffered as the stepchild of the 
Ardennes offensive, not only when 
bridge trains failed to arrive or proved 
inadequate but also in the niggardly 
issue of heavy weapons and artillery 
ammunition , particularly chemical 
shells. Perhaps these German divisions 
faced from the onset the insoluble tacti- 
cal dilemma, insoluble at least if the out- 
numbered defenders staunchly held 
their ground when cut off and sur- 
rounded. Strength sufficient to achieve a 
quick, limited penetration the German 
divisions possessed, so long as the assault 
forces did not stop to clean out the vil- 
lage centers of resistance. Strength to ex- 
ploit these points of penetration failed 
when the village centers of resistance 
were bypassed. 

Successful the American defense in the 
Sauer sector had been, but costly too. 
In six days (through 2 1 December, after 
which the Americans would begin their 
counterattack) the units here on the 
southern shoulder lost over 2,000 killed, 
wounded, or missing. German casualties 
probably ran somewhat higher, but 
whether substantially so is questionable. 
In any case, about 800 German prisoners 
were taken and nonbattle casualties must 
have been severe, for German com- 
manders later reported that the number 
of exposure and trench foot cases had 
been unusually high, the result of the 
village fighting in which the defender 
had the greater protection from cold 
and damp. 



CHAPTER XI 



The 1st SS Panzer Division's Dash 
Westward, and Operation Greif 



The bulk of the fourteen divisions 
under First U.S. Army command on 16 
December were deployed north of the 
Belgian Ardennes. Behind them, roughly 
in the triangle formed by the cities of 
Liege, Verviers, and Spa, lay the supply 
installations built up through the au- 
tumn to support the advance toward the 
Rhine. At Spa, which had served the 
German Emperor as headquarters in 
World War I, the First Army had estab- 
lished its command post surrounded on 
every side by service installations, supply 
dumps, and depots. Liege, twenty miles 
northwest of Spa, was one of the great- 
est American supply centers on the Con- 
tinent. Verviers, an important and dense- 
ly stocked r ailhead lay el even miles 



north of Spa. {See Map I.) 

General Hodges' First Army head- 
quarters, set up in the declasse resort 
hotels and casinos of the once fashion- 
able watering place, was remote from 
sound of battle on the morning of 16 
December, but in a matter of hours the 
slashing thrust of the ist SS Panzer Divi- 
sion roughly altered its ordered exist- 
ence. The nature of the ground along 
which the Americans would attempt to 
defend the myriad headquarters and 
service installations, railheads, and 
depots, must be explained. Southeast of 
Spa runs the Ambleve River, the creation 



of a series of tributaries flowing south 
from the springs and swamps of the 
rugged Hohes Venn. The Ambleve, 
bending westward, is joined by the Salm, 




General Hodges 

a north-flowing tributary, at the town of 
Trois Fonts, then angles northwest until 
it meets the Ourthe River and finally the 
Meuse at Liege. The Ambleve and the 
Salm are narrow . and rather minor 
streams; the valleys through which they 
course are deep-cut, with long stretches 



260 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



of steep and rocky walls. A line on the 
map tracing the course of the Ambleve 
River and its initial tributaries will pass 
from northeast to southwest through 
three important bridgeheads and road 
centers, Malmedy, Stavelot, and Trois 
Fonts. From the first two, roads led north 
to Spa, Verviers, and Liege. Although 
both Malmedy and Stavelot were admin- 
istrative centers of importance (Stavelot 
contained the First Army map depot 
with some 2,500,000 maps) , the most 
important item hereabouts was the great 
store of gasoline, over two million gal- 
lons, in dumps just north of the two 
towns. 

The ist SS Panzer Division (SS Ober- 
fuehrer Wilhelm Mohnke) was the 
strongest fighting unit in the Sixth Pan- 
zer Army. Undiluted by any large influx 
of untrained Luftwaffe or Navy replace- 
ments, possessed of most of its T/O&E 
equipment, it had an available armored 
strength on 16 December of about a 
hundred tanks, equally divided between 
the Mark IV and the Panther, plus forty- 
two Tiger tanks belonging to the ^oist 
SS Panzer Detachment. The road net in 
the Sixth Panzer Army would not per- 
mit the commitment of the ist SS Pan- 
zer as a division, even if two of the five 
roads allocated the army were employed. 
The division was therefore divided into 
four columns or march groups: the first, 
commanded by Colonel Peiper, con- 
tained the bulk of the ist Panzer Regi- 
ment and thus represented the armored 
spearhead of the division; the second was 
made up from the division's Reconnais- 
sance Battalion; the third and fourth 
each comprised armored infantry and 
attached heavy weapons; the heavy Ti- 
ger detachment was left to be fed into 
the advance as occasion warranted. 



Kampfgruppe Peiper on the Move 

On the morning of i6 December Colo- 
nel Peiper journeyed to the advance 
command post of the 12th Folks Grena- 
dier Division, whose troops were sup- 
posed to make the gap in the lines of 
the American 99th Infantry Division 
north of the Schnee Eifel through which 
his armor would be committed.^ To 
Peiper 's disgust the infantry failed in 
their assigned task and the day wore on 
with Peiper 's column still waiting on the 
roads to the rear. The blown bridge 
northwest of Losheim increased the de- 
lay; for some reason the engineers failed 
to start repair work here until noon or 
later. This was not the end. In midafter- 
noon the horse-drawn artillery regiment 
of the 12th Volks Grenadier Division 
was ordered up to support the infantry, 
hopelessly clogging the approaches to 
the bridge. Peiper himself took over the 
job of trying to straighten out this traffic 
jam but more time was lost. It was not 
until 1930 that the armored advance 
guard was able to reach Losheim, the 
village which gave its name to the gap 
at the northern terminus of the Schnee 
Eifel. At this time Peiper received a 
radio message saying that the next rail- 
road overpass was out, that the engineers 
would not get up in time to make repairs, 
and that he must turn west to Lanzerath 

^ The records of Peiper's unit were destroyed 
just before his capture. In 1945, however, Peiper 
was interviewed by members of the ETO His- 
torical Section. (See Ferriss, Rpt Based on Intervs 
in January 1945, passim.) Much of the tactical 
detail used herein comes from the 3,268-page 
trial transcript of the so-called Malmedy Case 
tried before the U.S. General Military Government 
Court in 1946. A good summary of the latter is 
found in a manuscript by Royce L. Thompson 
entitled The ETO Ardennes Campaign: Opera- 
tions of the Combat Group Peiper, 16-26 December 
1944 (1952) , in OCMH files. 



THE ENEMY DASH WESTWARD AND OPERATION GREIF 



261 



in the 3d Parachute Division sector. 
This move was completed by midnight, 
although a number of tanks and other 
vehicles were lost to mines and anti- 
tank fire while making the turnabout at 
Losheim. At Lanzerath Colonel Peiper 
discovered that the 3d Parachute also had 
failed to punch any sizable hole through 
the American line, although the ist SS 
Panzer Division had taken Krewinkel 
and so helped the 3d Parachute forward. 
Irritated by the hours frittered away, 
Peiper took an infantry battalion, put 
two of his Panther tanks at the point of 
the column, and at 0400 attacked toward 
Honsfeld. Opposition had evaporated. 
Honsfeld was surprised and taken with 
ease.^ 

The original route assigned Peiper's 
kampfgruppe ran west to Schoppen. This 
was a poor road, bogged with mud from 
the winter rains, and since the 12th SS 
Panzer Division had not yet come up 
Peiper pre-empted the latter 's paved 
route through Biillingen. Also he had 
been told that there were gasoline stores 
in Biillingen, and a great deal of fuel 
had been burned during the jockeying 
around Losheim. Sure enough, the gaso- 
line was found as predicted. Using 
American prisoners as labor, the Ger- 
mans refueled their tanks. They scooped 
up much other booty here and destroyed 
a number of artillery planes on a near- 
by field. When American gunners com- 
menced to shell the village the 
column was already moving on, although 
it suffered some casualties. By this time 
Peiper and his staff believed that the 
breakthrough was complete; no Amer- 
ican troops appeared on the sensitive 
north flank, and only an occasional jeep 
scuttled away to the west of the column. 

^Ch. VIII. 



It was between noon and one o'clock 
of 17 December, on the road between 
Modersheid and Ligneuville, that the 
German advance guard ran into an 
American truck convoy moving south 
from Malmedy. This was ill-fated Bat- 
tery B of the 285th Field Artillery Ob- 
servation Battalion. The convoy was shot 
up and the advance guard rolled on, 
leaving the troops to the rear to deal 
with the Americans who had taken to 
the woods and ditches. About two hours 
after, or so the dazed survivors later re- 
called, the Americans who had been 
rounded up were marched into a field 
where, at a signal, they were shot down 
by machine gun and pistol fire. A few 
escaped by feigning death, but the 
wounded who moved or screamed were 
sought out and shot through the head. 
At least eighty-six Americans were mas- 
sacred here. This was not the first killing 
of unarmed prisoners chargeable to 
Kampfgruppe Peiper on 17 December. 
Irrefutable evidence shows that nineteen 
unarmed Americans were shot down at 
Honsfeld and fifty at Biillingen.^ 

The Malmedy massacre would have 
repercussions reaching far wider than 
one might expect of a single battlefield 
atrocity in a long and bitter war. This 
"incident" undoubtedly stiffened the 
will of the American combatants (al- 
though a quantitative assessment of this 
fact is impossible) ; it would be featured 
in the war crimes trials as an outstanding 

^ The massacres perpetrated by Peiper's troops 
were the subject o£ a special Congressional in- 
vestigation: 81st Cong., 1st sess., Report of the 
Subcommittee on Armed Services, United States 
Senate, Malmedy Massacre Investigation (dated 13 
October 1949) . Cf., Records of the War Crimes 
Branch, USFET, 1946. The postwar SS view of 
the Malmedy incident is given in Paul Hausser's 
Waffen-SS im Einsatz (Goettingen, 1953) , pp. 
242-57- 



262 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 




Peiper's Troops on the Road to Malmedy 



example of Nazi contempt for the ac- 
cepted rules of war; and it would serve 
a United States Senator as a stepping- 
stone toward a meteoric career. But the 
Malmedy massacre and the other mur- 
ders of 17 December did not complete 
the list chargeable to Peiper and the 
troops of the ist SS Panzer Division. By 
20 December Peiper's command had 
murdered approximately 350 American 
prisoners of war and at least 100 un- 
armed Belgian civilians, this total de- 
rived from killings at twelve different 
locations along Peiper's line of march. 

So far as can be determined the Peiper 
killings represent the only organized and 
directed murder of prisoners of war by 



either side during the Ardennes battle.^ 
The commander of the Sixth SS Panzer 
Army took oath in the trials of 1946 that, 
acting on Hitler's orders, he issued a 
directive stating that the German troops 
should be preceded "by a wave of terror 
and fright and that no human inhibi- 
tions should be shown." There is con- 
flicting testimony as to whether the or- 
ders finally reaching Peiper specifically 
enjoined the shooting of prisoners. 
There is no question, however, that 

* Hitler's order to take no prisoners probably 
had wide circulation. Lt. Col. George Mabry, 
commander of the 2d Battalion, 8th Infantry, has 
stated that his unit captured a German colonel 
from the Seventh Army who had such an order. 
Ltr, Gen Barton to author, 17 Nov 59. 




Massacred American Soldiers Near Malmedy 



some of Peiper's subordinates accepted 
the killing of prisoners as a command 
and that on at least one occasion Peiper 
himself gave such an order. Why Peiper's 
command gained the bestial distinction 
of being the only unit to kill prisoners in 
the course of the Ardennes is a subject 
of surmise. Peiper had been an adjutant 
to Heinrich Himmler and as a battalion 
commander in Russia is alleged to have 
burned two villages and killed all the 
inhabitants. The veteran SS troops he 
led in the Ardennes had long experience 
on the Eastern Front where brutality 
toward prisoners of war was a common- 
place. On the other hand Peiper's for- 



mation was well in the van of the Ger- 
man attack and was thus in position to 
carry out the orders for the "wave of 
terror" tactic— which might be excused, 
or so Peiper claimed, by the rapid move- 
ment of his kampfgruppe and its in- 
ability to retain prisoners under guard. 

The speed with which the news of the 
Malmedy massacre reached the Ameri- 
can front-line troops is amazing but, in 
the perfervid emotional climate of 17 
December, quite understandable. The 
first survivors of the massacre were 
picked up by a patrol from the 291st 
Engineer Combat Battalion about 1430 
on that date. The inspector general of 



264 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



the First Army learned of the shootings 
three or four hours later. Yet by the late 
evening of the 17th the rumor that the 
enemy was killing prisoners had reached 
as far as the forward American divisions. 
There were American commanders who 
orally expressed the opinion that all SS 
troops should be killed on sight and 
there is some indication that in isolated 
cases express orders for this were given.^ 
It is probable that Germans who at- 
tempted to surrender in the days imme- 
diately after the 17 th ran a greater risk 
than would have been the case during 
the autumn campaign. There is no evi- 
dence, however, that American troops 
took advantage of orders, implicit or ex- 
plicit, to kill their SS prisoners. 

The point of Peiper's column reached 
Ligneuville sometime before 1300, in 
time to eat the lunch which had been 
prepared for an American detachment 
stationed in the village. Here the road 
divided, the north fork going to Mal- 
medy, the western leading on to Stavelot. 
Although it was agreed that the armored 
columns should have considerable lee- 
way in choosing the exact routes they 
would follow, a general boundary line 
gave the ist SS Panzer Division the 
southern part of the zone assigned the 
/ SS Panzer, while the 12th SS Panzer 
Division advanced in the northern sector. 
The 12th SS Panzer Division, of course, 
was still back at the line of scrimmage, 
nor would it break into the clear for 
many hours to come, but all this was un- 
known to Peiper. He did know that the 



"^Thus Fragmentary Order 27, issued by Head- 
quarters, 328th Infantry, on 21 December for the 
attack scheduled the following day says: "No SS 
troops or paratroopers will be taken prisoners but 
will be shot on sight." 



Americans thus far had shown no disposi- 
tion to throw punches at his north flank. 
Furthermore, the 3d Parachute Division 
had a clear field to follow up and protect 
his line of communications, while the 2d 
Panzer Division— so Peiper understood— 
was moving fast in the south and roughly 
abreast of his own advance. 

Peiper had a precisely defined mis- 
sion: his kampfgruppe was to seize the 
Meuse River crossings at Huy, making 
full use of the element of surprise and 
driving west without regard to any flank 
protection. The importance of this mis- 
sion had been underlined during the 
initial briefing at the command post of 
the ist SS Panzer Division on 14 Decem- 
ber when Peiper had been assured that 
his command would play the decisive 
role in the coming counteroffensive. 
There seems to have been some hope ex- 
pressed among the higher German staffs 
that the advance guard elements of both 
the ist SS Panzer Division and the Fifth 
Panzer Army's 2d Panzer Division would 
reach the Meuse within twenty-four 
hours of the time of commitment. The 
distance by road, on the ist SS Panzer 
Division axis, was between 125 and 150 
kilometers (about 75 to 95 miles) . Pei- 
per himself had made a test run on 1 1 
December to prove that it was possible 
for single tanks to travel 80 kilometers 
(50 miles) in one night. Whether an 
entire tank column could maintain this 
rate of progress for a day and a night 
in enemy country and on the sharp turns 
and grades of the Ardennes road net was 
a matter of guesswork.® 

Whatever schedule Peiper was using, 



" Peiper later said that if the German infantry 
had made a penetration by 0700 on 16 December 
he could have reached the Meuse the same day. 



THE ENEMY DASH WESTWARD AND OPERATION GREIF 



265 



if indeed he had any precise timetable 
in mind, the kampfgruppe o£ the ist SS 
Panzer Division was making good prog- 
ress and the element of surprise, as 
shown by the lack of any formal resist- 
ance, was working to German advantage. 
His path lay straight ahead, through 
Stavelot, Trois Fonts, Werbomont, Ouf- 
fet, Seny, Huy— a distance of some 50 
miles, from where the head of the ist SS 
Panzer Division column stood in Ligneu- 
ville, to Huy and the Meuse. Only 
a few short miles to the north lay Mal- 
medy and the road to Spa and Liege. 
Malmedy and the Meuse crossing sites in 
the vicinity of Liege, however, were in 
the zone assigned the 12 th SS Panzer 
Division. Peiper stuck to his knitting. 

About 1400 the column resumed the 
march, taking some time to negotiate the 
sharp turns and narrow streets in Ligneu- 
ville. At the western exit the point 
of the column ran onto the trains be- 
longing to CCB, 9th Armored Division, 
which was preparing to move east in sup- 
port of the combat command then en- 
gaged in the St. Vith sector. A couple of 
Sherman tanks and a tank destroyer 
made a fight for it, demolishing the 
leading Panther and a few other armored 
vehicles. Peiper's column was delayed for 
about an hour. 

Advancing along the south bank of the 
Ambleve, the advance guard reached 
Stavelot, the point where the river must 
be crossed, at dusk. Looking down on the 
town the Germans saw hundreds of 
trucks, while on the opposite bank the 
road from Stavelot to Malmedy was 
jammed with vehicles. Although the 
Germans did not know it, many of these 
trucks were moving to help evacuate the 
great First Army gasoline dumps north 
of Stavelot and Malmedy. March serials 



of the 7th Armored Division also were 
moving through Stavelot en route to 
Vielsalm. 

The small town of Stavelot (popula- 
tion 5,000) lies in the Ambleve River 
valley surrounded by high, sparsely 
wooded bluffs. Most of the town is built 
on the north bank of the river or on the 
slopes above. There are a few scattered 
buildings on the south bank. Like most 
of the water courses in this part of the 
Ardennes, the Ambleve was no particular 
obstacle to infantry but the deeply in- 
cised valley at this point offered hard 
going to tanks, while the river, by reason 
of the difficult approaches, was a tougher 
than average tank barrier. Only one 
vehicular bridge spanned the river at 
Stavelot. The sole approach to this 
bridge was by the main highway; here 
the ground to the left fell away sharply 
and to the right a steep bank rose above 
the road. 

Stavelot and its bridge were open for 
the taking. The only combat troops in 
the town at this time were a squad from 
the 291st Engineer Combat Battalion 
which had been sent from Malmedy to 
construct a roadblock on the road lead- 
ing to the bridge. For some reason Pei- 
per's advance guard halted on the south 
side of the river, one of those quirks in 
the conduct of military operations which 
have critical import but which can never 
be explained. Months after the event 
Peiper told interrogators that his force 
had been checked by American antitank 
weapons covering the narrow approach 
to the bridge, that Stavelot was "heavily 
defended." But his detailed description 
of what happened when the Germans 
attacked to take town and bridge shows 
that he was confused in his chronology 
and was thinking of events which tran- 



266 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



spired on 18 December. It is true that 
during the early evening of the 17th 
three German tanks made a rush for the 
bridge, but when the leader hit a hasty 
mine field, laid by American engineers, 
the others turned back— nor were they 
seen for the rest of the night. 

Perhaps the sight of the numerous 
American vehicles parked in the streets 
led Peiper to believe that the town was 
held in force and that a night attack 
held the only chance of taking the bridge 
intact. If so, the single effort made by 
the German point is out of keeping with 
Peiper's usual ruthless drive and daring. 
Perhaps Peiper accepted the word of his 
leading troops and failed to establish the 
true situation for himself. Perhaps he 
was interested at this moment only in 
closing up his third column, which in 
march formation extended for fifteen 
miles. Perhaps, as he says, Peiper was 
waiting for his infantry. Whatever the 
reason— and it never will be known— the 
German kampfgruppe came to a halt on 
the night of 17-18 December at the 
Stavelot bridge, forty-two miles from the 
Meuse. 

During the night the First Army fed 
reinforcements into Malmedy, for it 
seemed impossible that the Germans 
could forfeit the opportunity to seize the 
town. As part of the defense being or- 
ganized here a company of the 526th 
Armored Infantry Battalion and a pla- 
toon of 3-inch towed tank destroyers 
were ordered to outpost Stavelot. Maj. 
Paul J. Solis, commanding this detach- 
ment, began moving his troops into posi- 
tion just before daybreak: two platoons 
on the south bank of the river (with a 
section of tank destroyers at the old road- 
block) ; one platoon with three 57-mm. 
antitank guns and the second section of 



tank destroyers in reserve around the 
town square north of the river. 

Before the riflemen could organize a 
defense the German infantry attacked, 
captured the tank destroyers south of the 
river, and drove the two platoons back 
across the bridge. Taken by surprise, the 
Americans failed to destroy the bridge 
structure, and a Panther made a dash 
about 0800 which carried it onto the 
north bank. More tanks followed. For 
some while the Germans were held in 
the houses next to the river; an antiair- 
craft artillery battery from the 7th Ar- 
mored Division wandered into the fire 
fight and did considerable damage be- 
fore it went on its way. A company from 
the 202d Engineer Combat Battalion 
entered the town and joined in the fray. 
By the end of the morning, however, the 
German firing line had been built up to 
the point where the Americans could no 
longer hold inside the village proper, 
particularly since the hostile tanks were 
roving at will in the streets. 

Solis ordered his detachment to retire 
to the top of the hill above Stavelot, but 
in the confusion of disengagement the 
remaining antitank weapons and all but 
one of the rifle platoons fell back along 
the Malmedy road. With German tanks 
climbing behind the lone platoon and 
without any means of antitank defense, 
Solis seized some of the gasoline from the 
Francorchamps dump, had his men pour 
it out in a deep road cut, where there 
was no turn-out, and set it ablaze. The 
result was a perfect antitank barrier. 
The German tanks turned back to 
Stavelot— this was the closest that Kampf- 
gruppe Peiper ever came to the great 
stores of gasoline which might have 
taken the ist SS Panzer Division to the 
Meuse River. Solis had burned 124,000 



THE ENEMY DASH WESTWARD AND OPERATION GREIF 



267 



gallons for his improvised roadblock, but 
this was the only part of the First Army's 
POL reserve lost during the entire Ar- 
dennes operation. 

While the engagement in Stavelot was 
still in progress, Peiper turned some of 
his tanks toward Trois Ponts, the im- 
portant bridgehead at the confluence of 
the Salm and the Ambleve. As Peiper 
puts it: "We proceeded at top speed 
towards Trois Ponts in an effort to seize 
the bridge there. ... If we had cap- 
tured the bridge at Trois Ponts intact 
and had had enough fuel, it would have 
been a simple matter to drive through 
to the Meuse River early that day." One 
company of Mark IV tanks tried to reach 
Trois Ponts by following a narrow side 
road on the near bank of the Ambleve. 
The road was almost impassable, and 
when the column came under American 
fire this approach was abandoned. The 
main part of the kampfgruppe swung 
through Stavelot and advanced on Trois 
Ponts by the highway which followed the 
north bank of the river. Things were 
looking up and it seemed that the only 
cause for worry was the lowering level in 
the panzer fuel tanks. Missing in Peiper 's 
calculations was an American gun, the 
puny 57-mm. antitank weapon which 
had proven such an impuissant answer to 
German tanks. 

Trois Ponts gains its name from three 
highway bridges, two over the Salm and 
one across the Ambleve. The road from 
Stavelot passes under railroad tracks as 
it nears Trois Ponts, then veers sharply 
to the south, crosses the Ambleve, con- 
tinues through the narrow valley for a 
few hundred yards, and finally turns 
west at right angles to cross the Salm and 
enter the main section of the small vil- 
lage. A number of roads find their way 



through the deep recesses of the Salm 
and Ambleve valleys to reach Trois 
Ponts, hidden among the cliffs and hills. 
Most, however, wind for some distance 
through the gorges and along the tor- 
tuous valley floors. One road, a con- 
tinuation of the paved highway from 
Stavelot, leads immediately from Trois 
Ponts and the valley to the west. This 
road, via Werbomont, was Peiper's ob- 
jective. 

Company C, 51st Engineer Combat 
Battalion, occupied Trois Ponts, so im- 
portant in the itinerary of the kampf- 
gruppe. Quite unaware of the impor- 
tance of its mission, the company had 
been ordered out of the sawmills it had 
been operating as part of the First 
Army's Winterization and Bridge Tim- 
ber Cutting Program, and dispatched 
to Trois Ponts where it detrucked 
about midnight on 17 December. Num- 
bering around 140 men, the company 
was armed with eight bazookas and ten 
machine guns. Maj. Robert B. Yates, 
commanding the force, knew only that 
the 1111th Engineer Group was prepar- 
ing a barrier line along the Salm River 
from Trois Ponts south to Bovigny and 
that he was to construct roadblocks at 
the approaches to Trois Ponts according 
to the group plans. During the night 
Yates deployed the company at road- 
blocks covering the bridge across the 
Ambleve and at the vulnerable highway 
underpass at the railroad tracks north of 
the river. On the morning of 1 8 Decem- 
ber a part of the artillery column of the 
7th Armored Division passed through 
Trois Ponts, after a detour to avoid the 
German armor south of Malmedy; then 
appeared one 57-mm. antitank gun and 
crew which had become lost during the 
move of the 526th Armored Infantry 



268 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



Battalion. Yates commandeered the crew 
and placed the gun on the Stavelot road 
to the east of the first underpass where 
a daisy chain of mines had been laid. 

A quarter of an hour before noon the 
advance guard of Peiper's main column, 
nineteen or twenty tanks, came rolling 
along the road. A shot from the lone 
antitank gun crippled or in somewise 
stopped the foremost German tank, but 
after a brief skirmish the enemy knocked 
out the gun, killed four of the crew, and 
drove back the engineers. The hit on 
the lead tank checked the German col- 
umn just long enough to give warning 
to the bridge guards, only a few score 
yards farther on. They blew the Am- 
bleve bridge, then the Salm bridge, and 
fell back to the houses in the main part 
of town. In the meantime one of the 
engineer platoons had discouraged the 
German tank company from further 
advance along the side road and it had 
turned back to Stavelot.'' 

Frustrated by a battalion antitank gun 
and a handful of engineers, Kampf- 
gruppe Peiper now had no quick exit 
from the valley of the Ambleve. With 
but one avenue remaining the column 
turned northward toward La Gleize, 
moving through the canyons of the Am- 
bleve on the east side of the river. At 
La Gleize there was a western exit from 
the valley, although by a mediocre, 
twisting road. Nearby, at the hamlet of 
Cheneux, the Germans found a bridge 
intact over the Ambleve. This stroke of 
good luck was countered by bad when 
the weather cleared and American fight- 
er-bombers knocked out two or three 



'The ubiquitous 51st Engineer Combat Bat- 
talion will crop up at many points in this narra- 
tive. The battalion was awarded a Presidential 
Citation. 



tanks and seven half-tracks, blocking the 
narrow road for a considerable period. 
When night came the armored point was 
within some three miles of Werbomont, 
an important road center on the main 
highway linking Liege and Bastogne. 

Then, as the Germans neared a creek 
(the Lienne) a squad of Company A, 
291st Engineer Combat Battalion, blew 
up the only bridge. Reconnaissance 
north and south discovered other 
bridges, but all were too fragile to sup- 
port the Tiger tanks which had come 
forward with the advance guard. Dur- 
ing the evening one detachment with 
half-tracks and assault guns did cross on 
a bridge to the north and swung south- 
west toward Werbomont. Near Chevron 
this force ran into an ambush, set by a 
battalion of the 30th Division which had 
been sent to head off Peiper, and was cut 
to pieces. Few of the Germans escaped. 
Since there was nothing left but to dou- 
ble back on his tracks, Peiper left a 
guard on the bridge at Cheneux and 
moved his advance guard through the 
dark toward the town of Stoumont, situ- 
ated on the Ambleve River road from 
which the abortive detour had been 
made during the afternoon. Scouts 
brought in word that Stoumont was 
strongly held and that more American 
troops were moving in from Spa. There 
was nothing left but to fight for the town. 

All through the afternoon of the 
1 8th, liaison planes from the First Army 
airstrip at Spa had been skidding under 
the clouds to take a look at Peiper's 
tanks and half-tracks. One of these light 
planes picked up the advance at Cheneux 
and called the Ninth Air Force in to 
work over this force. By the evening of 
18 December Peiper's entire column, 
now spread over many miles of road. 



THE ENEMY DASH WESTWARD AND OPERATION GREIF 



269 



had been located and the word flashed 
back to First Army headquarters. The 
element of surprise, vital to the German 
plan of a coup de main at the Meuse, 
was gone. American forces from the 30th 
Infantry Division were racing in on 
Peiper from the north, and the Sad Air- 
borne Division was moving with all pos- 
sible speed to the threatened area. 

It is doubtful that Peiper realized how 
the American net was being spread for 
a cast from the north, but he had 
experienced enough reverses on 18 De- 
cember to feel the stiffening of opposi- 
tion in his path. Radio contact between 
Peiper and the higher German head- 
quarters had broken down, the armored 
sending apparatus failing to carry over 
the Ardennes terrain, and the Sixth 
Panzer Army was forced to follow 
Peiper's progress through intercepted 
American radio messages. Peiper, on 
the other hand, had little or no in- 
formation as to what was happening be- 
hind him and where the following 
kampfgruppen of his own division were 
located. A Luftwaffe ultrahigh-fre- 
quency radio set was rushed to Peiper 
by liaison officer late this day, but its 
possession did not alter the relative 
independence and isolation of Peiper's 
command. 

Sometime during the night of 18- 
19 December the radio link with the 
headquarters of the ist Panzer Division 
was restored. By this means Peiper may 
have learned what he already must 
have suspected, that the 30th Infantry 
Division was on the move south from 
the American Ninth Army sector. Ger- 
man reconnaissance and intelligence 
agencies opposite the U.S. Ninth Army 
had been alert from the first hours of 
the counteroffensive for any sign that 



troops were being stripped from the 
Roer front for intervention in the south. 
The first two divisions to leave the Ninth 
Army area, the 30th Infantry and 7th 
Armored, actually were in reserve and 
out of contact, but when the two started 
moving on 17 December the word was 
flashed back to OB WEST almost at 
once. Again American radio security had 
failed. 

Operation Greif 

During the last days before the great 
offensive which would send the German 
armored spearheads plunging west, 
Hitler belatedly set about replicating 
the winning combination of rapid and 
deep armored penetration, paratroop 
attacks in the enemy rear, and in- 
filtration by disguised ground troops 
which had functioned so effectively in 
the western campaign of 1940 and the 
Greek campaign of 1941. To flesh out 
this combination, a special operation 
named Greif (or Condor) was hurriedly 
organized as an adjunct to the armored 
operation assigned the ist SS Panzer 
Division.^ 

The plans for the ground phase of 
Greif consisted of three parts: the seizure 
intact of at least two bridges across the 
Meuse by disguised raiding parties, the 
prompt reinforcement of any such coup 
de main by an armored commando for- 
mation; and an organized attempt to 
create confusion in the Allied rear areas 
through sabotage carried out by jeep 
parties clad in American uniforms. Later 
it would be rumored that a feature of 

' The origins of this scheme are described by 
Manteuffel in Frieden and Richardson, eds., The 
Fatal Decisions, pp 272-74. See also B. H. Liddell 
Hart, The Other Side of the Hill (London: 
Cassell and Company, Ltd., 1951) . 



270 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



Operation Greif was the planned as- 
sassination of Allied leaders, notably 
General Eisenhower, but there is no 
evidence of such plotting in the plan. 

The idea for the ground operation 
was probably Hitler's and the leader, 
Lt. Col. Otto Skorzeny, was selected per- 
sonally by Hitler. Skorzeny had achieved 
a considerable reputation as a daring 
commando leader, had rescued Musso- 
lini from the Italians, and had seized 
the Hungarian Regent, Admiral Miklos 
von Nagybanya Horthy, when the Hun- 
garian regime began to waver in its 
loyalties. For Operation Greif, Skorzeny 
formed the special Panzer Brigade i^o 
(or Brandenburger) numbering about 
two thousand men, of whom one hun- 
dred and fifty could speak English.* 
Captured Allied equipment (particu- 
larly tanks and jeeps) , uniforms, identi- 
fication papers, and the like were hastily 
collected at the front and sent to Skor- 
zeny 's headquarters. The disguised jeep 
parties did go into action with varying 
degrees of success on 16 December, but 
the Brandenburger Brigade would be 
engaged as a unit only in a single and 
abortive skirmish near Malmedy five 
days later. 

The airborne phase of Operation 
Greif, whose code name was Hohes 
Venn, seems to have been completely an 
afterthought, for the orders setting up 
the operation were not issued until 8 
December. 1" Hitler, like most of the 



"The original Brandenburg Division seems to 
have been none too happy that Skorzeny's group 
was given the name of the Brandenburgers. H. 
Kriegsheim, Getarnt, Getauescht und doch Getreu: 
Die Division "Brandenburg" (Berlin, 1958), p. 305. 

^° The story of the Hohes Venn operation is 
given by its leader in MS ^ P-051, Airborne 
Operations; A German Appraisal (Generalmajor 
Hellmuth Reinhardt) . Cf., the G.S.D.I.C. (U.K.) 



higher German commanders, had lost 
confidence in airdrop tactics after the 
many casualties suffered by the German 
paratroopers in the Crete jump. Then 
too, in late 1944 the necessarily lengthy 
training for paratroop units was a lux- 
ury denied by the huge drain of battle- 
field losses. Apparently it was Model 
who suggested that paratroop tactics be 
tried once again, but undoubtedly Hitler 
seized upon the proposal with alacrity 
although there was no longer a single 
regular paratroop regiment active in the 
Wehrmacht. Model wanted the jump 
to be made in the Krinkelt area, and 
one may wonder what effect such a ver- 
tical attack might have had on the fight 
put up at the twin villages by the Ameri- 
can 2d and 99th Infantry Divisions. 
Hitler, however, had one of his intuitive 
strokes and ordered the jump to be made 
north of Malmedy. 

His choice for commander devolved 
on Col. Friedrich A. Freiherr von der 
Heydte, a distinguished and experienced 
paratroop officer then commanding the 
Fallschirm Armee Waff en school where 
the nominal parachute regiments were 
being trained as ground troops. Colonel 
von der Heydte was ordered to organize 
a thousand-man parachute formation for 
immediate use. Four days later von der 
Heydte received his tactical mission 
from the Sixth SS Panzer Army com- 
mander during an uncomfortable session 
in which Dietrich was under the in- 
fluence of alcohol. The paratroopers 
were to jump at dawn on D-day, first 
opening the roads in the Hohes Venn 
leading from the Elsenborn-Malmedy 
area toward Eupen for the armored 
spearhead units, then blocking Allied 

documents S.I.R. 1377 (n.d.) and G.R.G.G. 359 
(c) 24 Sep 45. 



THE ENEMY DASH WESTWARD AND OPERATION GREIF 



271 



forces if these attempted to intervene. 
Colonel von der Heydte was told that 
the German armor would reach him 
within twenty-four hours. 

The preparations for Operation 
Hohes Venn were rushed to completion. 
The troops received their equipment 
and a little jump training (many had 
never attended jump school) ; 112 war- 
weary, Junkers troop-carrier planes were 
gathered with an ill-assorted group of 
pilots, half of whom had never flown 
combat missions; 300 dummy figures 
were loaded for drops north of Camp 
Elsenborn to confuse the Americans 
(this turned out to be about the most 
successful feature of the entire oper- 
ation) ; and the pilots and jump-masters 
were given instructions— but no joint 
training. It must be said that these prep- 
arations for what would be the first 
German paratroop assault at night and 
into woods left much to be desired. 

On the evening of 1 5 December Colo- 
nel von der Heydte formed his compa- 
nies to entruck for the move to Pader- 
born, where the planes were assembled. 
The trucks never arrived— they had no 
fuel. Now the jump was ordered for 
0300 on the 17th. This time the jump 
was made on schedule, although not 
quite as planned and into very bad cross 
winds. One rifle company was dropped 
behind the German lines fifty kilo- 
meters away from the drop zone, most 
of the signal platoon fell just in front of 
the German positions south of Mon- 



schau, and the bulk of the command and 
the weapons packages were scattered al- 
most at random. Despite this bad be- 
ginning about one hundred paratroopers 
reached the rendezvous at the fork in 
the Eupen road north of Mont Rigi. 
Since this group was obviously too weak 
for open action. Colonel von der Heydte 
formed camp in the woods and sent out 
patrols to pick up information and harass 
the Americans in the vicinity. These pa- 
trols gathered in stragglers until some 
three hundred paratroopers had as- 
sembled, but it was now too late to carry 
out the planned operation. On the night 
of the 21st the paratroopers were or- 
dered to find their way back to the Ger- 
man lines believed to be at Monschau. 
Von der Heydte was taken prisoner two 
days later. The tactical effect of this hast- 
ily conceived and ill-executed operation 
proved to be almost nil although Ameri- 
can commanders did dispatch troops on 
wild-goose chases which netted little but 
a few paratroopers, empty parachutes, 
and dummies. 



The reports of enemy paratroopers did result 
in numerous troop alerts in the American rear 
areas. For example, the ii02d, 1107th, and 1128th 
Engineer Groups were alerted. (VIII Corps, G-3 
Jnl, 16 Dec 44.) The German soldiery, surprisingly, 
were told of Colonel von der Heydte's failure in 
an article entitled "Operation Mass Murder" 
which appeared in the Nachrichten Fur Die 
Truppe (the German equivalent of The Stars and 
Stripes) on 22 December 1944. This article, as the 
title implies, is extremely bitter over the lack of 
troop training and preparation. 



CHAPTER XII 

The First Attacks at St.Vith 



St. Vith lay approximately twelve 
miles behind the front lines on 16 De- 
cember. This was an average Belgian 
town, with a population of a little over 
2,000 and sufficient billets to house a 
division headquarters. It was important, 
however, as the knot which tied the roads 
running around the Schnee Eifel bar- 
rier to the net which fanned out toward 
the north, south, and west. Six paved 
or macadam roads entered St. Vith. 
None of these were considered by the 
German planners to be major military 
trunk lines, although in the late sum- 
mer of 1944 work had been started to 
recondition the road running east from 
St. Vith to Stadtkyll as a branch of the 
main military system, because normally 
the Schnee Eifel range served as a break- 
water diverting heavy highway traffic so 
that it p assed to the no rth or south of 
St. Vith. 



(See Map III.) 



In German plans the hub at St. Vith 
was important, but it was not on the axis 
of any of the main armored thrusts. The 
German armored corps advancing 
through the northeastern Ardennes were 
slated to swing wide of the Schnee Eifel 
and St. Vith, the / 5S Panzer Corps 
passing north, the LVIII Panzer Corps 
passing south. But despite admonitions 
from the German High Command that 
the armored spearheads should race for- 
ward without regard to their flanks it 
was obvious that St. Vith had to be 
taken early in the game. The reason was 



threefold: to insure the complete iso- 
lation of the troops that might be 
trapped on the Schnee Eifel, to cover 
the German supply lines unraveling be- 
hind the armored corps to the north 
and south, and to feed reinforcements 
laterally into the main thrusts by using 
the St. Vith road net. The closest of 
the northern armored routes, as these 
appeared on the German operations 
maps, ran through Recht, about five 
miles northwest of St. Vith. The closest 
of the primary armored routes in the 
south ran through Burg Reuland, some 
five miles south. 

St. Vith is built on a low hill sur- 
rounded on all sides by slightly higher 
rises. On the south the Braunlauf Creek 
swings past St. Vith and from the stream 
a draw extends to the west edge of the 
town. About a mile and a half to the 
east a large wooded hill mass rises as 
a screen. This is crossed by the road to 
Schonberg, which then dips into the Our 
valley and follows the north bank of the 
river until the Schonberg bridge is 
reached, approximately six miles from 
St. Vith. 

On the morning of 16 December the 
messages reporting the initial German 
attacks in the io6th Division positions 
were punctuated for the division staff 
by occasional large-caliber shells falling 
in St. Vith. This fire was quite ineffectual 
and there was little comprehension in 
these early hours of the serious nature 



THE FIRST ATTACKS AT ST. VITH 



273 



o£ the German attack. The attachment 
of CCB, 9th Armored Division, to 
the io6th Division late in the morning 
promised Such aid as then seemed neces- 
sary, but Hoge's command post was at 
Monschau and he would not receive his 
orders from Jones until about 1800. As 
a result CCB began its move for St. Vith 
about 2000 on the 16th. 

As the size and direction of the first 
enemy effort began to assume some 
shadowy form on the situation maps 
in the corps and division headquarters, 
General Middleton advised the io6th 
Division commander that he could use 
the 168th Engineer Combat Battalion, 
which was engaged in routine duties 
around St. Vith and Vielsalm. This bat- 
talion (Lt. Col. W. L. Nungesser) 
was at about half strength— attendance 
at schools or special assignments account- 
ed for the rest. The men had not been 
given any recent training in the use 
of bazookas or machine guns; a large 
percentage of the machine gunners 
would therefore be killed in the fight 
for St. Vith. At 1030 on 17 December, 
reports of the German penetration from 
the east led General Jones to send the 
168th out the St. Vith-Schonberg road 
with orders to defend astride the road 
at the village of Heuem. While en route, 
the engineers met troopers of the 3 2d 
Cavalry who had been involved in a run- 
ning fight along the road west of Schon- 
berg. Heuem, they reported, was in 
enemy hands and a German column was 
heading straight for St. Vith. 

On the morning of the 17 th Colonel 
Slayden, VIII Corps' assistant G-2, and 
Lt. Col. Earle Williams, the 106th 
Division signal officer, while doing in- 
dependent scouting east of St. Vith, had 
seen the enemy and tapped the signal 



wire to ask for artillery interdiction of 
the highway. The combat engineer bat- 
talion deployed about two miles east 
of St. Vith along the outer edge of a 
pine forest fringing the ridge mask over 
which climbs the road from Schonberg. 
Here forty men or so of the 8 1st Engineer 
Combat Battalion (106 th Division) 
joined the 168th. CCB, gth Armored Di- 
vision, had passed St. Vith en route to 
aid the 424th Infantry, and a platoon of 
Troop C, 89th Cavalry Squadron, was 
commandeered to reinforce the watch 
east of the town.^ This little force was 
digging in when, at noon, the first 
enemy patrols were sighted. 

The jth Armored Division 
Move to St. Vith 

When the counteroffensive began, the 
7th Armored Division (Brig. Gen. Rob- 
ert W. Hasbrouck) was in the XIII 
Corps reserve, planning for possible 
commitment in the Ninth Army Oper- 
ation Dagger intended to clear the Ger- 
mans from the west bank of the Roer 
River once the dams were destroyed.^ 

^ The subsequent story of these units is threaded 
together from the VIII Corps G-a and G-3 jour- 
nals; combat interviews with the VIII Corps staff 
and the 168th Engineer Battalion; the separate 
troop histories in the 89th Cavalry Reconnais- 
sance Squadron AAR; the 168th Engineer Combat 
Battalion AAR; and the journals of CCB, gth 
Armored. (The AAR of the latter is worthless 
and the journals are very confused; they do, 
however, have many map overlays from which the 
action can be traced.) 

^ The history of the 7th Armored in the battle 
of St. Vith is better documented than any part 
of the Ardennes story, with the sole exception of 
the defense of Bastogne. All of the units organic 
to this command prepared AAR's, including the 
division trains and artillery. The unit journals, 
as is common in an armored division, are rather 
slim, although, in this case, fairly accurate. A 
quite complete and accurate account was prepared 
by one of the participants, Maj. Donald P. Boyer, 



274 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



The division, assembled about fifteen 
miles north of Aachen, had taken no 
part as a unit in the November 
drive toward the Roer, although com- 
panies and battalions on occasion had 
been attached to attacking infantry di- 
visions. The period of rest and refitting, 
after heavy fighting at Metz and in Hol- 
land, had put the 7 th Armored in good 
condition. When General Bradley and 
the 12 th Army Group staff met in the 
afternoon of the 16 th to make a tenta- 
tive selection of divisions which could be 
taken from other fronts to reinforce the 
Ardennes sector, the choice in the north 
fell on Hasbrouck's command. Actually 
there were armored divisions in the 
First Army closer to the scene, but they 
had been alerted for use in the first 
phases of the attacks planned to seize 
the Roer River dams (a design not 
abandoned until 17 December) and as 
yet little sense of urgency attached to 
reinforcements in the VIII Corps area. 

General Hasbrouck received a tele- 
phone call at 1730 alerting his division 
for movement to the south (it took five 
more hours for the 7 th Armored G-2 
to learn that "three or four German di- 
visions were attacking") . Two hours 
later while the division assembled 
and made ready, an advance party left 
the division command post at Heerlen, 
Holland, for Bastogne where it was to 
receive instructions from the VIII Corps. 
Vielsalm, fourteen miles west of St. Vith 
by road, had already been designated as 
the new assembly area. At Bastogne 

Jr., in 1947 and was published as St. Vith: The yth 
Armored Division in the Battle of the Bulge, ij- 
2_3 December (I have used Major Boyer's 

original typescript which is written in greater 
detail.) The combat interviews (particularly 
those compiled by Robert Merriam) are very in- 
formative. 



General Middleton outlined the mission: 
one combat command would be pre- 
pared to assist the io6th Division, a 
second could be used if needed, but 
under no circumstances was the third to 
be committed. The decision was left to 
General Hasbrouck, who first was to con- 
sult with the 106th Division as to how 
and when his leading combat command 
would be employed. Even at this hour 
the scope of the German counteroffen- 
sive was but dimly seen and the 7th Ar- 
mored Division advance party was in- 
formed that it would not be necessary 
to have the artillery accompany the com- 
bat command columns— in other words 
this would not be a tactical march from 
Heerlen to Vielsalm. 

The movement plans prepared by the 
First Army staff assigned General Has- 
brouck two routes of march: an east 
route, through Aachen, Eupen, Mal- 
medy, and Recht, on which CCR would 
move; a west route, through Maastricht, 
Verviers, and Stavelot, which would be 
used by the main body of the division. 
The division artillery, which had been 
firing in support of the XIII Corps, was 
not to displace until the late morning of 
17 December, when it would move on 
the eastern route. Shortly after midnight 
the Ninth Army was informed that the 
two columns would depart at 0330 and 
0800; actually the western column moved 
out at 0430. The estimated time of ar- 
rival was 1400, 17 December, and of 
closure 0200, 18 December. A couple of 
hours earlier the First Army headquar- 
ters had told General Middleton that 
the west column would arrive at 0700 
and close at 1900 on the 17 th, and that 
the combat command on the east road 
would arrive at 1100 and close at 1700. 
It was on this estimate that General 



THE FIRST ATTACKS AT ST. VITH 



275 



Middleton and the io6th Division com- 
mander based their plans for a counter- 
attack by a combat command of the 7 th 
Armored east of St. Vith early on 17 
December. 

Although this failure to make an ac- 
curate estimate of the time of arrival 
in the battle area bore on the fate of 
the two regiments on the Schnee Eifel, 
it was merely a single event in the 
sequence leading to the final encircle- 
ment and lacked any decisive import. 
The business of computing the lateral 
movement of an armored division close 
to a front through which the enemy was 
breaking could hardly attain the exact- 
ness of a Leavenworth solution com- 
plete with march graphs and tables. 
None of the charts on traffic density com- 
monly used in general staff or armored 
school training could give a formula for 
establishing the coefficient of "friction" 
in war, in this case the mass of jeeps, 
prime movers, guns, and trucks which 
jammed the roads along which the 7th 
Armored columns had to move to St. 
Vith. Also, the transmittal of the 7th 
Armored Division's own estimate of its 
possible progress was subject to "fric- 
tion." This estimate was received at the 
headquarters of the VIII Corps at 0500 
on 17 December, the first indication, it 
would appear, that the leading armored 
elements would arrive at 1400 instead 
of 0700 as planned. Thus far the Ninth 
Army had given Hasbrouck no informa- 
tion on the seriousness of the situation 
on the VIII Corps front. 

The advance party sent by General 
Hasbrouck reached St. Vith about 
0800 on 17 December, reporting to 
General Jones, who expected to find 
the armored columns right behind. Brig. 
Gen. Bruce Clarke, in advance of CCB, 



agreed with Jones's recommendation that 
his combat command be organized 
upon arrival into two task forces and 
committed in an attack to clear the St. 
Vith-Schonberg road. At Schonberg the 
7 th Armored task forces would turn 
south to join CCB of the gth Armored 
Division, already engaged along the road 
to Winterspelt. If successful, the attack 
by the two combat commands would pro- 
vide escape corridors for the beleaguered 
regiments of the 106th. 

CCB of the 7th Armored had mean- 
while been making good progress and 
arrived at Vielsalm about moo, halting 
just to the east to gas up. Although Viel- 
salm was only fourteen miles by road 
from St. Vith, it would be literally a 
matter of hours before even the lightly 
armored advance guard could reach St. 
Vith. The mass of artillery, cavalry, and 
supply vehicles moving painfully 
through St. Vith to the west— with and 
without orders— formed a current al- 
most impossible to breast. Although the 
mounted military police platoon in St. 
Vith had orders to sidetrack the with- 
drawing corps artillery when the armor 
appeared, the traffic jam had reached the 
point where the efforts of a few MP's 
were futile. 

General Jones, beset by messages re- 
porting the German advance along the 
Schonberg road, sent urgent requests for 
the armor to hurry. At 1300 German 
vehicles were seen in Setz, four and a 
half miles from the eastern edge of St. 
Vith. Half an hour later three enemy 
tanks and some infantry appeared be- 
fore the 168th Engineer Battalion posi- 
tion astride the St. Vith road. Care- 
lessly dismounting, one tank crew was 
riddled by machine gun fire; a second 
tank received a direct and killing blast 



276 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 




Traffic Jam in the St. Vith Area 



from a bazooka; the third tank and the 
infantry withdrew. Another small Ger- 
man detachment deployed in front of the 
engineers an hour later was engaged 
and was finally put to flight by Ameri- 
can fighter planes in one of their few 
appearances over the battlefield on this 
day. 

About the same time the 87th Cavalry 
Reconnaissance Squadron, temporarily 
under the command of Maj. Charles A. 
Cannon, Jr., reported to General Clarke 
in St. Vith, the first unit of the 7th 
Armored to reach the 106th Division. 
Troop B was sent out the east road to 



reinforce the engineers, but the main 
body of the reconnaissance battalion de- 
ployed to screen the northeastern ap- 
proaches to the Wallerode area. By this 
time it was obvious to Jones and Clarke 
that the main forces of the 7th Armored 
could not reach St. Vith in time to 
make a daylight attack. General Has- 
brouck reached St. Vith at 1600— 
it had taken him all of five hours to 
thread his way through the traffic jam 
between Vielsalm and St. Vith. He found 
that General Jones already had turned 
the defense of St. Vith over to Clarke 
and the 7 th Armored Division. After a 



THE FIRST ATTACKS AT ST. VlTH 



277 



hasty conference the counterattack was 
postponed until the following morning. 

It was just turning dark when the 
assistant G-2 of the 7th Armored led 
a company of tanks and another of 
armored infantry into St. Vith. This de- 
tachment had literally forced its way, 
at pistol point and by threatening to run 
down the vehicles barring the road, from 
Vielsalm to St. Vith. About this time 
the Germans made another attempt, 
covered by artillery fire, to thrust a few 
tanks along the east road. Three Ameri- 
can tank destroyers which had been dug 
in at a bend in the road were abandoned 
—their crews shelled out by accurate 
enemy concentrations— but the attack 
made no further headway and perhaps 
was intended only as a patrol action. 
The 106th Division now could report, 
"We have superior force in front of St. 
Vith." 

Why did the LXVI Corps fail 
to make a determined push toward St. 
Vith on ly December? German assault 
guns or tanks had been spotted west of 
Schonberg as early as 0850. By noon 
German infantry were in Setz, with at 
least five hours of daylight remaining 
and less than five miles to go, much of 
that distance being uncontested. By mid- 
afternoon the enemy had reached the 
168th Engineer positions less than two 
miles from St. Vith. Yet at no time dur- 
ing the day did the Germans use more 
than three assault guns and one or two 
platoons of infantry in the piecemeal 
attacks west of Schonberg. The succes- 
sive concentrations laid by the Ameri- 
can artillery on Schonberg and both sides 
of the road west— from 9 o'clock on- 
must have affected enemy movement 
considerably. The bombs dropped on 
Schonberg and its narrow streets late in 



the day may have delayed the arrival of 
reinforcements, and air attack certainly 
helped to scatter the most advanced Ger- 
man troops. The stand made by Troop 
B, 3 2d Cavalry Squadron, near Heuem 
and the later fight by the engineers gave 
the German point an excuse to report- 
as it did— the presence of "stubborn re- 
sistance" east of St. Vith. 

It seems likely, however, that only 
small German detachments actually 
reached the Schonberg— St. Vith road 
during the daylight hours of 17 De- 
cember. The German corps commander. 
General Lucht, had ordered the Mobile 
Battalion of the i8th Volks Gren- 
adier Division up from reserve during 
the previous night with orders to ad- 
vance via Andler. (It will be remem- 
bered that the i8th Volks Grenadier 
Division was charged with the encircle- 
ment and capture of St. Vith.) The 
Mobile Battalion (comprising three 
platoons of assault guns, a company of 
engineers, and another of fusiliers) did 
not arrive at Schonberg until after noon. 
During the morning the division com- 
mander had led a battalion of the 2g^th 
Regiment to Schonberg, but seems to 
have halted there (perhaps to secure the 
Schonberg bridge against recapture) , 
sending only small detachments against 
Troop B at Heuem. With the arrival 
of the assault guns some attempt was 
made to probe the American defenses 
east of St. Vith. This, however, was not 
the main mission assigned the advance 
guard of the i8th Volks Grenadier Divi- 
sion, for the original plan of advance 
had called on the Mobile Battalion to 
seize the high ground at Wallerode, 
northeast of St. Vith, which overlooked 
the valley road from Schonberg. The 
bulk of the German advance guard, as 



278 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



a result, toiled through the woods to- 
ward Wallerode, arriving there in the 
early evening. 

An opportunity had been missed. Per- 
haps the German command did not 
realize the full extent of the gains won 
in the St. Vith area and was wedded 
too closely to its prior plans. In any case 
the German armored reserve was not 
available. Tanks of the Fuehrer Begleit 
Brigade, theoretically attached to the 
LXVI Corps but subject to commitment 
only on army orders, would not be re- 
leased for use at St. Vith until too late 
for a successful coup de main. 

On the movement of the main body 
of the 7th Armored Division on 17 De- 
cember hung the fate of St. Vith. Behind 
the reconnaissance and advance elements 
the bulk of the division moved slowly 
southward along the east and west lines 
of march, forty-seven and sixty-seven 
miles long, respectively. The division 
staff knew little of the tactical situation 
and nothing of the extent to which the 
German armored columns had penetrat- 
ed westward. It is probable that night- 
flying German planes spotted the Ameri- 
can columns in the early hours of the 
17th, but it is doubtful that the tank 
columns of the Sixth Panzer Army travel- 
ing west on roads cutting across the 7 th 
Armored routes were aware of this 
American movement. Actually CCR of 
the 7th Armored, on the eastern route, 
came very close to colliding with the 
leading tank column of the ist SS 
Panzer Division south of Malmedy but 
cleared the road before the Germans 
crossed on their way west. The western 
column made its march without coming 
in proximity to the west-moving German 
spearheads, its main problem being to 
negotiate roads jammed with west- 



bound traffic. 

The division artillery, finally released 
in the north, took the east route, its 
three battalions and the 203d Antiair- 
craft Battalion moving as a single col- 
umn. Early on the afternoon of the 17th 
the 440th Armored Field Artillery, lead- 
ing the column, entered Malmedy, only 
to be greeted with the sign This Road 
Under Enemy Fire. The town square 
was a scene of utter confusion. Trucks 
loaded with soldiers and nurses from a 
nearby hospital, supply vehicles, and 
civilians of military age on bicycles ed- 
died around the square in an attempt 
to get on the road leading out to the 
west; a battalion from a replacement 
depot threaded its way on foot between 
the vehicles, also en route to the west. 
All that the artillery could learn was 
that a German tank column was south 
of Malmedy. This, of course, was the 
panzer detachment of the ist SS Panzer 
Division. 

The 440th Armored Field Artillery 
Battalion, unable to reverse itself, 
turned west to Stavelot and subsequently 
joined the western group on its way to 
Vielsalm. Alerted by radio from the 
440th, Maj. W. J. Scott (acting in 
the absence of the artillery commander 
who had gone ahead to report at the 
division headquarters) turned the col- 
umn around in the square and to avoid 
the narrow and congested road led it 
back toward Eupen, cutting in to the 
western divisional route at Verviers. 
This roundabout move consumed the 
daylight hours and through the night 
the gun carriages streamed along the 
Verviers-Vielsalm road. The main artil- 
lery column again missed the ist SS Pan- 
zer Division by only a hair's breadth. 

As Battery D, 203d Antiaircraft (AW) 



THE FIRST ATTACKS AT ST. VITH 



279 



Battalion, at the tail of the column, 
rolled through Stavelot about 0800 on 
the morning of 18 December, it found 
itself in the middle of a fire fight be- 
tween the advance guard of the ist SS 
Panzer Division and a small American 
force of armored infantry, engineers, 
and tank destroyers. The battery swung 
its quadruple machine guns around for 
ground laying and moved into the fight, 
firing at the enemy assembling along the 
banks of the Ambleve River, which 
here ran through the south edge 
of the town. After an hour or so the 
battery turned once again and, taking 
no chances, circled wide to the west. It 
finally arrived in the division assembly 
area east of Vielsalm late in the after- 
noon. The bulk of the artillery column 
closed at Vielsalm during the morning, 
although the last few miles had to be 
made against the flow of vehicles surg- 
ing from the threatened area around St. 
Vith. 

While the 7th Armored Division artil- 
lery was working its way onto the west 
road during the evening of 1 7 December, 
most of the division assembled in the St. 
Vith area along positions roughly indic- 
ative of an unconsciously forming per- 
imeter defense. From Recht, five miles 
northwest of St. Vith, to Beho, seven 
miles to the southwest of the 106th Divi- 
sion headquarters, the clockwise dis- 
position of the American units was as 
follows. At Recht were located the com- 
mand post of CCR and the rear head- 
quarters of CCB, with the 17th Tank 
Battalion assembled to the southeast. 
The disorganized 14th Cavalry Group 
was dispersed through the area between 
Recht and Poteau. East of Hiinningen the 
87th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron 
( — ) had formed roadblocks to bar the 



northern and northeastern approaches 
to St. Vith. To the right of the cavalry 
the most advanced units of CCB had 
reinforced the 168th Engineer Combat 
Battalion on the Schonberg road and 
pushed out to either side for some dis- 
tance as flank protection. During the 
night, CCB, gth Armored Division, and 
the 424th Infantry withdrew across the 
Our River and established a defensive 
line along the hill chain running from 
northeast of Steinebriick south to Burg 
Reuland; these troops eventually made 
contact with the advance elements of 
CCB, 7 th Armored Division. Some six 
or seven miles west of Burg Reuland, 
CCA of the 7th Armored had assembled 
near Beho. 

West of St. Vith, in position to give 
close support, were located the 275th 
Armored Field Artillery Battalion (Lt. 
Col. Roy Udell Clay) and the remainder 
of CCB. The 275th, reinforced by the 
16th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 
and three batteries of corps artillery, 
fired through the night to interdict the 
eastern approaches to St. Vith; this was 
all the artillery support remaining to the 
American troops in this sector. The 
112th Infantry, now beginning to fold 
back to the north as the center of the 
28th Division gave way, was no longer 
in contact with the 424th Infantry, its 
erstwhile left flank neighbor, but the 
axis of withdrawal ultimately would 
bring the 112th Infantry to piece out 
the southern sector of the defense slowly 
forming around St. Vith. 

While it is true that an outline or 
trace of the subsequent St. Vith perim- 
eter was unraveling on the night of 
17-18 December, this was strictly fortui- 
tous. General Jones and General Has- 
brouck still expected that CCB would 



280 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



make its delayed drive east of St. Vith 
on the morning of the i8th. The strength 
of the German forces thrusting west was 
not yet fully appreciated. Information 
on the location of the enemy or the 
routes he was using was extremely vague 
and generally several hours out of date. 
Communication between the higher 
American headquarters and their sub- 
ordinate units was sporadic and, for long 
periods, nonexistent. Late in the evening 
of the 17th and during the morning of 
the 18th, however, the scope and direc- 
tion of the German drive thrusting past 
St. Vith in the north became more clear- 
ly discernible as the enemy struck in a 
series of attacks against Recht, Poteau, 
and Hiinningen. 

The Enemy Strikes at the 
St. Vith Perimeter 

The ist SS Panzer Division, forming 
the left of the / SS Panzer Corps advance 
in the zone north of St. Vith, had 
driven forward on two routes. The 
northern route, through Stavelot and the 
Ambleve River valley, carried the main 
strength of the division, led by its pan- 
zer regiment. It was the first group in 
this northern column which CCR had 
unwittingly eluded and from which the 
tail of the 7th Armored artillery column 
had glanced at Stavelot. The southern 
route, through Recht and Vielsalm, 
was assigned to a kampfgruppe of the 
ist SS Panzer Division made up of a 
reinforced panzer grenadier regiment 
and a battalion of assault guns. This 
group had been delayed by poor roads 
and American mine fields west of Man- 
derfeld, and by the end of 17 December 
it was some hours behind the north col- 
umn. 



The headquarters of CCR, 7 th Ar- 
mored, opened in Recht in midafter- 
noon of the 17th. At that time the com- 
bat command retained only the 17 th 
Tank Battalion (assembled to the south- 
east) because its armored infantry bat- 
talion had been diverted to St. Vith. 
About 2045 CCR got its first word of the 
Germans it had so narrowly missed when 
the driver for the division chief of staff. 
Col. Church M. Matthews, appeared at 
the command post with the report that 
during the afternoon he had run afoul 
of a large tank column near Pont and 
that the colonel was missing.^ These Ger- 
mans, of course, were part of the north- 
ern column. Lt. Col. Fred M. Warren, 
acting commanding officer, sent the 
driver on to division headquarters to tell 
his story, and at the same time he asked 
for a company of infantry. He then or- 
dered the 17th Tank Battalion (Lt. Col. 
John P. Wemple) to send a tank com- 
pany into Recht. Warren and Wemple 
studied the road net as shown on the 
map and agreed to try to hold Recht 
through the night. Stragglers came pour- 
ing through Recht in the meantime with 
rumors and reports of the enemy just 
behind them. The headquarters and 
tank company had little time to get set, 
for about 0200 the advance guard of 
the southern German column hit the 
village from the east and northeast. Un- 
willing to risk his tanks without infantry 
protection in a night fight through nar- 
row streets, and uncertain of the 
enemy strength. Warren ordered a with- 
drawal after a sharp 45-minute engage- 
ment. CCR headquarters started down 



^ Colonel Matthews' body was discovered about a 
month later. Col. John L. Ryan, Jr., who had 
commanded CCR, became the 7th Armored chief 
of staff. 



THE FIRST ATTACKS AT ST. VITH 



281 



the road southwest toward Vielsalm, and 
the tanks rejoined Wemple. 

Made cautious by the collision at 
Recht, the German column moved slow- 
ly, putting out feelers to the southeast 
before the main force resumed the 
march southwest along the Vielsalm 
road. Wemple and his tankers were able 
to repel these probing attempts without 
difficulty. CCR headquarters had mean- 
while become ensnarled with the rem- 
nants of the 14th Cavalry Group and the 
residue of the corps artillery columns 
at the little village of Poteau, where the 
roads from Recht and St. Vith join en 
route to Vielsalm. This crossroads ham- 
let had been the worst bottleneck in 
the traffic jam on 17 December; indeed 
the situation seems to have been com- 
pletely out of hand when the CCR head- 
quarters arrived in the early morning 
hours and succeeded in restoring some 
order. 

On the afternoon of 17 December the 
14th Cavalry Group commander had 
ordered the remnants of his two squad- 
rons to fall back to Recht. Through 
some confusion in orders both squadrons 
got onto the St. Vith-Poteau highway, 
although three reconnaissance teams did 
reach Recht and took part in the action 
there. About midnight orders from the 
106th Division arrived at the group head- 
quarters which had been set up in Po- 
teau: the cavalry were to return to Born, 
which they had just evacuated, and 
occupy the high ground. By this time 
most of the 3 2d Squadron had threaded 
their way south through Poteau, appar- 
ently unaware that the group had es- 
tablished a command post there. Short- 
ly after dark Colonel Devine departed 
with most of his staff for the 106th 
Division command post, but this com- 



mand group was ambushed near Recht 
(Colonel Devine and two of his officers 
escaped on foot) . 

Early on the 18th, Lt. Col. Augustine 
Duggan, senior of the remaining staff, 
intercepted elements of the 18th Squad- 
ron, part of Troop C, 3 2d Squad- 
ron, and the one remaining platoon of 
towed 3-inch guns from the 820th Tank 
Destroyer. These were placed under the 
command of Maj. J. L. Mayes as 
a task force to comply with the orders 
from division. With great difficulty the 
task force vehicles were sorted out, lined 
the road, and then turned about and 
faced toward Recht. Mayes's group 
moved out from the crossroads at first 
light on 18 December but had gone only 
some two hundred yards when flame shot 
up from the leading light tank and an 
armored car, the two struck almost si- 
multaneously by German bazooka fire. 
The glare thrown over the snow sil- 
houetted the figures of enemy infantry- 
men advancing toward the Poteau cross- 
roads. The task force pulled back into 
the village and hastily prepared a de- 
fense around the dozen or so houses 
there, while to the north a small cavalry 
patrol dug in on a hill overlooking the 
hamlet and made a fight of it. By this 
time the last of the milling traffic was 
leaving Poteau; eight 8-inch howitzers 
of the 740th Field Artillery Battalion 
were abandoned here as the German 
fire increased, ostensibly because they 
could not be hauled out of the mud 
onto the road. 

All through the morning the enemy 
pressed in on Poteau, moving his ma- 
chine guns, mortars, and assault guns 
closer and closer. At noon the situation 
was critical, the village was raked by 
fire, and the task force was no longer 



282 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



in communication with any other Ameri- 
cans. Colonel Duggan finally gave the 
order to retire down the road to Viel- 
salm. Three armored cars, two jeeps, and 
one light tank were able to disengage 
and carried the wounded out; apparent- 
ly a major part o£ the force was able 
to make its way to Vielsalm on foot. 

During the early morning Headquar- 
ters, CCR, set out from Poteau, head- 
ing down the valley road toward Viel- 
salm. At the small village of Petit Thier 
it was discovered that a lieutenant from 
the 23d Armored Infantry Battalion, 
separated from his column on the march 
south, had heard the firing at Poteau 
and had rounded up a collection of 
stray tanks, infantry, cavalry, and engi- 
neers to block the way to Vielsalm.* The 
CCR commander took over this road- 
block and, as the force swelled through 
the day with incoming stragglers and 
lost detachments, extended the position 
west of the village. The German column 
at Poteau, however, made no attempt to 
drive on to Vielsalm. The main body 
of the 1st SS Panzer Division needed 
reinforcements. The panzer grenadier 
regiment and the assault guns therefore 
were ordered off their assigned route and 
turned northeast to follow the column 
through Stavelot. 

The 7th Armored counterattack from 
St. Vith to relieve the two trapped regi- 
ments of the io6th Division had been 
postponed on the 17th, not canceled. 
During the early morning hours of 18 
December preparation was completed 
for the attack on Schonberg by the 31st 
Tank Battalion and the 23d Armored 
Infantry Battalion, now brigaded under 

* This outfit was called Task Force Navaho, so 
named because its leader had worked his way 
through college selling Indian blankets. 



CCB. This was risky business at best. 
The divisional artillery would not be in 
position to support the attack. The 
similar effort by CCB, gth Armored Divi- 
sion, had been called oS and the Ameri- 
can forces south of the 422d Infantry 
and 423d Infantry had withdrawn be- 
hind the Our. That the German strength 
was increasing was made apparent by 
the events during the night of 17-18 
December, but the 7th Armored light 
observation planes were not available 
for scouting the enemy dispositions or 
movements east of St. Vith. General 
Clarke was well aware of the chancy 
nature of this enterprise and, at 0645, 
when reporting to Colonel Ryan, the 
division chief of staff, pointed out that 
General Hasbrouck still had the option 
of canceling the attack. 

It would be the enemy, however, and 
not a command decision that forced the 
abandonment of the proposed effort. 
About 0800 the Germans launched a re- 
connaissance in force northeast of St. 
Vith, advancing from Wallerode to- 
ward Hiinningen. Here, only two thou- 
sand yards from St. Vith, two troops of 
the 87th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squad- 
ron and a few antiaircraft half-tracks 
offered the sole barrier to a thrust into 
the city. Who made up the enemy force 
and its strength is uncertain— probably 
this was the Mobile Battalion of the i8th 
Folks Grenadier Division, making the 
preliminary move in the scheme to en- 
circle St. Vith. In any event enough 
pressure was exerted during the morn- 
ing to drive the small American screen- 
ing force back toward St. Vith. 

As the cavalry commenced its delay- 
ing action a hurried call went out to 
CCB, gth Armored, for tanks and anti- 
tank guns. Moving through St. Vith, 



THE FIRST ATTACKS AT ST. VITH 



283 



two companies from the 14th Tank Bat- 
talion (Maj. Leonard E. Engeman) and 
one from the 8 1 1 th Tank Destroyer Bat- 
talion took over the fight. One company 
of Shermans circled in the direction of 
Wallerode, falling on the enemy flank 
while the tank destroyers contained the 
head of the German column on the Hiin- 
nange road. Both American units were 
able to drive forward and the Shermans 
knocked out six light panzers or as- 
sault guns. By this time the 7th Armored 
plans for the Schonberg attack were 
definitely oflf and a company from the 
31st Tank Battalion joined in the aflfair. 
American losses were small, the Ger- 
man foray was checked, and before the 
day closed the Hiinningen position was 
restored, but it was clear that the enemy 
now was concentrating to the north as 
well as to the east of St. Vith. 

Like the probing thrust at Hiinnange, 
the German eflforts on the road east 
of St. Vith during 18 December were 
advance guard actions fought while the 
main German force assembled. The i8th 
Volks Grenadier Division^ charged with 
the initial attack against St. Vith, actually 
was riding two horses at the same time, 
attempting to close up for a decisive 
blow at St. Vith while maintaining the 
northern arc of the circle around the 
Americans on the Schnee Eifel. This 
tactical problem was made more diffi- 
cult for the i8th Volks Grenadier Divi- 
sion and the LXVI Corps by the traffic 
situation on the roads east and north 
of Schonberg where columns belonging 
to the Sixth SS Panzer Army were swing- 
ing out of their proper zone. Although 
the corps commander. General Lucht, 
personally intervened to "rank" the in- 
truders out of the area he seems to have 
been only moderately successful. Then, 



too, the artillery belonging to the divi- 
sion had been turned inward against the 
Schnee Eifel pocket on 18 December; 
only one battalion got up to the Schon- 
berg-St. Vith road.^ 

The attacks made east of St. Vith on 
18 December were carried by a part 
of the 2p^th Infantry, whose patrols had 
been checked by the 168th Engineers the 
previous day. Three times the grenadiers 
tried to rush their way through the fox- 
hole line held by the 38th Armored 
Infantry Battalion (Lt. Col. William 
H. G. Fuller) and B Troop of the 87th 
astride the Schonberg road. The second 
attempt, just before noon, was made 
under cover of a creeping barrage laid 
down by the German artillery battalion 
near Schonberg and momentarily shook 
the American firing line. But the ar- 
mored infantry, rallied by their officers 
and aided by Nungesser's engineers, 
drove back the attackers. The last Ger- 
man assault, begun after a two-hour fire 
fight, made a dent in the center of the 
38th Armored Infantry line. Again the 
168th Engineers gave a hand, the bulk of 
the 23d Armored Infantry Battalion 
appeared to reinforce the line east of 
St. Vith, and by dark all lost ground had 
been retaken. During this entire action 
the 275th Armored Field Artillery Bat- 
talion, emplaced along the Recht road 
northwest of St. Vith, fired concentration 
after concentration against the enemy 
thrusting against the 38th and the engi- 
neers. Observation was poor— the 1 8th 
was a day of low-hanging fog— but the 
nine hundred rounds plunging onto the 
Schonberg road did much to check the 
grenadiers. 

^ The German operations are discussed in MSS 
# B-333 (Lucht) and B-688 (Moll). See also 
ETHINT #21. 



284 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



Although the 18th. Volks Grenadier 
Division was able, on this third day o£ 
the counteroffensive, to push some of its 
troops close in toward St. Vith, the 626 
Volks Grenadier Division on the left 
had moved more slowly. Despite the 
American withdrawal from the Winter- 
spelt-Heckhuscheid area and the 
promptings of the impatient commander 
of the LXVI Corps, the Sid only 
tardily brought itself into conformity 
with the forward kampfgruppen of the 
i8th Volks Grenadier Division. The 
i6^th Regiment, reinforced by engineers 
and assault guns, apparently took some 
time to re-form after its fight with 
the 9th Armored Division counterattack 
force on 17 December. Although Ger- 
man patrols continued up the road to 
Steinebriick, attempting in vain to seize 
the bridge during the night, the attack 
was not pressed until after daylight on 
the following morning. Two of the 
three Our bridges chosen for capture in 
the LXVI Corps' plan now were in Ger- 
man hands, but the bridge at Steine- 
briick still had to be taken. 

The bend in the Our River near 
Steinebriick necessitated a switch in the 
new American positions on the far bank; 
thus while the main frontage held by 
the 424th and CCB, 9th Armored, faced 
east, the line at Steinebriick faced south, 
then swung back until it again faced 
east. In this sector Troop D, 89th 
Cavalry Reconnaissance Battalion, plus 
a light tank platoon and an assault gun 
platoon, was deployed along the 3,000- 
yard stretch between Steinebriick and 
Weppler, its left flank in the air at the 
latter village, its right more or less se- 
cured by a provisional company from the 
424th Infantry west of Steinebriick. 

On the morning of 1 8 December Gen- 



eral Hoge, CCB commander, was or- 
dered to hurry to the io6th headquarters 
where he was told of the threat develop- 
ing north of St. Vith. When he sent 
back orders for the emergency task force 
from CCB to hasten north, the cavalry 
troop was included. Covered by one re- 
connaissance platoon and the cavalry as- 
sault guns, sited near the bridge, the 
remaining platoons of Troop D had left 
their positions and started filing toward 
the Steinebriick— St. Vith road when 
suddenly the movement order was can- 
celed. The cavalry had been under fire 
since daybreak, and when the 2d Pla- 
toon attempted to return to its position 
on a commanding hill between Steine- 
briick and Weppler it was forced to move 
dismounted in a rain of bullets and 
shells. At the Steinebriick bridge the en- 
emy increased in number as the morning 
progressed, slipping into positions on the 
south bank under cover given by ex- 
ploding smoke shells. To counter this 
threat the light tank platoon moved in- 
to Steinebriick, leaving the American 
left uncovered. About the same time the 
provisional rifle company west of Steine- 
briick took off and one of the cavalry 
platoons had to be switched hastily to 
cover this gap. 

Thus far the all-important bridge had 
been left intact, for there was still some 
hope that the 423d Infantry, at the least, 
might free itself from the Schnee Eifel 
trap. By noon the situation was such that 
the little group of troopers dared delay 
no longer. On General Hoge's order a 
platoon of armored engineers went down 
and blew the bridge— almost in the teeth 
of the grenadiers on the opposite bank. 

An hour later the platoon west of the 
village saw an enemy column of horse- 
drawn artillery driving into position. 



THE FIRST ATTACKS AT ST. VITH 



285 



The American gunners in the group- 
ment west of Lommersweiler immedi- 
ately answered the cavalry call for aid, 
apparently with some effect; yet within 
the hour at least a part of the twenty- 
two enemy guns counted here were in 
action, firing in preparation for an as- 
sault across the river. It would seem that 
a German rifle company first crossed 
into Weppler, now unoccupied, then 
wheeled and encircled the 2d Platoon 
on the hill. Only five Americans es- 
caped.* Two or more companies crossed 
near the blasted bridge and by 1530, 
despite the continual pounding admin- 
istered by the 1 6th Armored Field Artil- 
lery Battalion and the rapid fire from the 
cavalry tank, assault, and machine guns, 
had nearly encircled Troop D. A cavalry 
request for medium tanks perforce was 
denied; the tank companies sent north 
to Hiinningen had not yet returned and 
General Hoge had no reserve. A com- 
pany of the 27 th Armored Infantry Bat- 
talion, however, was put in to cover the 
cavalry left flank. With the enemy infan- 
try inside Steinebriick and excellent 
direct laying by the German gunners 
picking off the American vehicles one 
by one, the cavalry withdrew along the 
St. Vith road. 

The CCB position at the Our (where 
two companies of armored infantry, a 
company each of light and medium 
tanks, plus the reconnaissance company, 
were deployed on a front over 4,000 
yards) was no longer tenable. There had 
been no contact whatever with the 424th 
Infantry to the south. General Hoge con- 
ferred with General Jones at St. Vith 

" zd Lt. R. L. Westbrook commanded this pla- 
toon. Although severely wounded he led the sur- 
vivors to safety, then went back to his platoon's 
position to search for stragglers. He was given 
the DSC. 



and the two decided that the combat 
command should withdraw from the 
river northwest to slightly higher ground. 
Commencing at dark, the move was 
made without trouble and CCB settled 
along an arc whose center was about 
two and a half miles southeast of St. 
Vith. In this position the combat com- 
mand blocked the main Winterspelt- 
St. Vith highway and the valley of the 
Braunlauf Creek, a second natural cor- 
ridor leading to St. Vith. The gap be- 
tween Hoge's command and CCB, 7th 
Armored, which at dark had been 3,000 
yards across, closed during the night 
when a light tank company and an anti- 
aircraft battery came in. Later, liaison 
was established with the 424th Infantry 
on the right, which had been out of 
contact with the enemy during the day 
and remained in its river line position. 
Although the 62d Volks Grenadier Divi- 
sion was quick to occupy the ground 
vacated by CCB, no attempt was made 
to follow into the new American posi- 
tion. 

During the afternoon of 18 December 
while the combat commands of the 7th 
and gth Armored Divisions were fight- 
ing holding actions along the eastern 
front of the St. Vith area, General Has- 
brouck engaged in an attempt to restore 
the northern flank of the 7th Armored 
in the Poteau sector. The opportunity 
for a decisive American counterattack to- 
ward Schonberg was past, if indeed it 
had ever existed, and Hasbrouck's im- 
mediate concern was to establish his divi- 
sion north flank in a posture of defense 
in the St. Vith-Vielsalm area. The loss 
of the vital road junction at Poteau, 
earlier in the day, made the connection 
between the forces of the division at 
St. Vith, around Recht, and in the Viel- 



286 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



salm assembly area, more difficult and 
tenuous. Then too, it appeared that the 
enemy was concentrating in Recht and 
might try an attack through Poteau to 
Vielsalm. CCA (Col. Dwight A. Rose- 
baum) , watching the southern flank o£ 
the 7th Armored around Beho, had not 
yet met the Germans (who were in fact 
driving past to the west, but on roads 
south o£ Beho) . General Hasbrouck de- 
cided to leave a small force as observers 
around Beho and commit CCA to re- 
cover Poteau. 

At noon the 48th Armored Infantry 
Battalion and the 40th Tank Battalion 
(— ) , representing the bulk of CCA, 
rolled through St. Vith and out along the 
Vielsalm road. As the leading tank pla- 
toon hove in sight of Poteau it came 
immediately under small arms and as- 
sault gun fire. The few houses here were 
separated by an abandoned railroad cut, 
just south of the crossroads, which ran 
east and west. Colonel Rosebaum sent 
the tank platoon and an armored in- 
fantry company to clear the houses south 
of the cut. This action continued 
through the afternoon, while tanks and 
assault guns played a dangerous game 
of hide-and-seek from behind the houses 
and the American infantry tried to knock 
out the German machine guns enfilading 
the railroad cut. Toward dark the Amer- 
icans crossed the northern embankment 
and reached the road junction. Rose- 
baum posted the infantry company— 
now supported by an entire tank com- 
pany—to hold the village, cheek by jowl 
with the Germans in the northernmost 
houses. Thus far CCA had no contact 
with CCR headquarters and its scratch 
force to the west at Petit Thier because 
the road from Poteau was under fire. 

With the Poteau crossroad more or 



less in the hands of the 7th Armored, 
with a defensive arc forming north, east, 
and southeast of St. Vith, and with the 
Vielsalm-Petit Thier area under con- 
trol in the west, the next step was to 
block the possible routes of approach 
from the south and southwest. Nearly 
all the American units in the St. Vith 
area were already committed; all that 
General Hasbrouck could do was to 
station a light tank company, a company 
of armored engineers, the headquarters 
battery of an antiaircraft battalion, and 
a reconnaissance troop piecemeal in a 
series of small villages south and west 
of Beho. At best these isolated detach- 
ments could serve only as pickets for the 
7th Armored, but fortunately the Ger- 
man columns continued marching west. 

One brief engagement was fought on 
the 18th at Gouvy, a rail and road junc- 
tion southwest of Beho. The headquar- 
ters battery, 440th Antiaircraft (AW) 
Battalion (Lt. Col. Robert O. Stone) , 
and a light tank platoon had been sent 
to set up an outpost at the village. As 
they approached Gouvy station, a rail- 
road stop south of the village, they ran 
afoul of three German tanks which were 
just coming in from the south. The Ger- 
mans started a dash to sweep the column 
broadside, but the first shot knocked out 
an air-compressor truck whose unwieldy 
hulk effectively blocked the road. After 
firing their last rounds at the town and 
the column, the German tanks with- 
drew. When Stone took a look around 
he found himself in charge of a rail- 
head stock of 80,000 rations— which had 
been set ablaze by the depot guards— 
an engineer vehicle park, and 350 Ger- 
mans in a POW cage. Fortunately the 
fire could be checked without too much 
damage. Stone then organized a defense 



THE FIRST ATTACKS AT ST. VITH 



287 




with the engineers, ordnance, and quar- 
termaster people on the spot. Unwit- 
tingly, in the process of "freezing" this 
heterogeneous command, Stone stopped 
the westward withdrawal of badly need- 
ed engineer vehicles (carrying earth 
augers, air compressors, and similar 
equipment) which the VIII Corps com- 
mander was attempting to gather for 
work on a barrier line being constructed 
by the corps engineers farther to the 
west. 

The artillery battalions of the 7th Ar- 
mored Division were in firing positions 
north and east of Vielsalm at the close 
of 18 December. They could not give 



aid to CCB, east of St. Vith, but there 
the 275th Armored Field Artillery Bat- 
talion was in range and already had giv- 
en a fine demonstration of effective 
support. The 7th Armored trains, which 
had reached Salmchateau by the west- 
ern route on the morning of the 18th, 
were sent twenty-two miles west of La 
Roche, partly to keep them out of enemy 
reach but also because of the possibility 
that the division might soon have to re- 
tire behind the Ourthe River. The re- 
serve available to General Hasbrouck 
was scant for such wide-flung positions: 
some 90-mm. guns from the 814th Tank 
Destroyer Battalion and the provisional 



288 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



squadron being formed from the re- 
mains of the 14th Cavalry Group. 

Late in the day General Jones moved 
the 106th command post to Vielsalm, 
setting up near General Hasbrouck's 
headquarters. The orders given the 7th 
Armored Division still held— to assist 
the 106th Division. In fact, however, 
there was little left of the io6th; so re- 
sponsibility tended to devolve on the 
junior commander, Hasbrouck. 

The two generals had only a vague 
idea of what was happening beyond their 
own sphere. Telephone service to the 
VIII Corps headquarters at Bastogne 
ended on 18 December when that head- 
quarters moved to Neufchateau. But 



Hasbrouck had no doubt that General 
Middleton counted on the continued de- 
fense of the St. Vith road center— this 
part of the mission needed no reiteration. 
Since the VIII Corps itself was in posses- 
sion of only fragmentary information 
on the German strength and locations 
there was little to be passed on to the 
division commanders. 

Liaison and staff officers coming 
from Bastogne brought word of only 
meager American reinforcements any- 
where in the neighborhood of St. Vith. 
One regiment of the 30th Infantry Divi- 
sion was in Malmedy, thirteen or four- 
teen miles to the north, but the 
intervening countryside was swamped 




Antitank Gunners Guarding a Crossing near Vielsalm in the 7th Armored Division 
area. 



THE FIRST ATTACKS AT ST. VITH 



289 



by German columns heading west. The 
Sad Airborne Division, it was estimated, 
would reach Werbomont (about the 
same distance northwest of Vielsalm) 
on the morning of 19 December, but it 
was apparent that in this area also the 
enemy barred any solid contact with the 
St. Vith defenders. At Bastogne the 101st 
Airborne Division was arriving to take 
over the fight at that critical road junc- 
tion, but there were no additional rein- 
forcements which General Middleton 
could employ in plugging the gap be- 
tween St. Vith and Bastogne. 

The problem of maintaining control 
over the heterogeneous formations in 
the St. Vith-Vielsalm area or of giv- 
ing complete tactical unity to the de- 
fense was very difficult. Under sustained 
German pressure a wholly satisfactory 
solution never would be achieved. The 
piecemeal employment of lower units, 
made unavoidable by the march of 
events, resulted in most involved meth- 
ods of communication. A tank company, 
for example, might have to report by 
radio through its own battalion head- 
quarters, some distance away, which 
then relayed the message on other chan- 
nels until it reached the infantry battal- 
ion to which the tank company was 
attached. The homogeneity of the bat- 
talion, in American practice the basic 
tactical unit, largely ceased to exist, nor 
did time and the enemy ever permit any 
substantial regrouping to restore this 
unity. It is surprising that under the 
circumstances control and communica- 
tion functioned as well as they did. But 
the 7th Armored Division was a veteran 
organization; the general officers in the 
area dealt with one another on a very 
co-operative basis; and within the sub- 
commands, established around the coa- 



lescing perimeter, the local commanders 
acted with considerable freedom and 
initiative. 

Although all intention of attempting 
to breach the German ring around the 
two regiments of the 106th Division had 
been abandoned on 18 December and 
the mission no longer was counterat- 
tack, but rather defense in place, there 
still was a faint hope that the 4zzd and 
423d somehow might be able to fight 
their way out through Schonberg as Gen- 
eral Jones had ordered. During the 
early morning hours of 19 December 
messages from the 423d Infantry (dis- 
patched at noon on the previous day) 
finally reached Vielsalm. From these 
Jones learned that both regiments had 
begun the attack westward, but no word 
on the progress of the attack followed— 
nor did the American outposts on the 
Schonberg road catch any sound of fir- 
ing moving west. Finally, late in the 
evening, a radio message arrived from 
the VII Corps: bad weather had inter- 
vened; the supplies promised the en- 
trapped troops had not been dropped. 
By this time the last bit of hope for 
the lost regiments must have gone. 

There was one fortunate but unex- 
pected event on the 19th. The exact 
location and strength of the 112 th In- 
fantry, somewhere south of the 424th, 
were unknown .''^ That a gap existed on 
the right of the 424th was known. Early 
on 19 December word reached General 
Jones by way of liaison officer that, as 
of the previous evening, the 1 1 2th In- 
fantry was cut off from the 28th Divi- 
sion and had fallen back from the Our 
to the neighborhood of Weiswampach. 
A few hours later more information fil- 



' See above, pp. 204-05. 



290 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



tered back to Vielsalm: the 112th had 
withdrawn to Huldange, thus coming 
closer to the 7th Armored and 106th. 
Finally, in midafternoon, Colonel Nel- 
son (commanding the 112th) appeared 
at the 106th Division command post and 
reported his situation, and the regiment 
was taken over by General Jones— a so- 
lution subsequently approved by Gen- 
eral Middleton. Colonel Nelson brought 
a welcome addition to the St. Vith forces. 
His regiment had lost most of its vehi- 
cles, radios, and crew-served weapons 
but had suffered relatively light casual- 
ties and lost but few stragglers. It was 
well in the hand of its commander and 
ready to fight. Jones ordered the 112th 
Infantry to draw northward on the night 
of 19-20 December and make a firm con- 
nection with the southern flank of the 
424th. 

Throughout the 19th there were spo- 
radic clashes with the enemy around the 
perimeter. The threatened sector re- 
mained the line from Poteau to St. Vith, 
and from St. Vith along the eastern front 
covered by CCB, 7th Armored, and 
CCB, 9th Armored. At Poteau CCA 
brought more troops into and around 
the village, while the enemy fired in 
from the hill to the north rising along- 
side the Recht road. The southern col- 
umn of the ist SS Panzer Division, which 
first had captured the town, was long 
since gone, hurrying west. But the newly 
committed gth SS Panzer Division, fol- 
lowing in its wake via Recht, threw a 
large detachment of panzer grenadiers 
into the woods around Poteau, either to 
retake the crossroad or to pin the 
Americans there. The resulting state of 
affairs was summed up when the execu- 
tive officer of CCA reported to the divi- 
sion G-3: "The CO of CCA wanted 



these facts made known. He is extended 
and cannot protect the right flank of the 
zone between Recht and Poteau. He 
cannot protect Poteau. He needed two 
companies of infantry deployed and one 
in reserve. He is getting infiltration in 
his rear from the vicinity of Recht. The 
woods are so thick that he needs almost 
an infantry platoon to protect three 
tanks sitting out there. Dismounted in- 
fantry in foxholes control the intersec- 
tion at Poteau but [it is] covered by 
enemy fire." Nevertheless the Poteau 
road junction was denied the enemy, and 
by the close of day patrols had estab- 
lished contact between CCR, to the west, 
and CCA. 

At St. Vith enemy pressure failed to 
increase during the 19th, and the Amer- 
ican commanders took advantage of the 
breathing spell to reassess their disposi- 
tions for defense. The two CCB com- 
manders, Clarke and Hoge, given a free 
hand by General Jones and General 
Hasbrouck, agreed that in the event of 
any future withdrawal CCB, 9th Ar- 
mored Division, might be trapped as 
it then stood because Hoge's combat 
command, deployed southeast of St. Vith, 
had no roads for a direct move west- 
ward and would be forced to retire 
through St. Vith. Clarke would hold as 
long as possible east of the town, but 
with both combat commands in its 
streets St. Vith was an obvious trap. It 
was decided, therefore, that Hoge should 
pull his command back during the com- 
ing night to a new line along the 
hills west of the railroad running out 
of St. Vith, thus conforming on its left 
with CCB, 7th Armored. 

The withdrawal was carried out as 
planned. A small German attack hit the 
right flank just as the move was being 



THE FIRST ATTACKS AT ST. VITH 



291 



made but was checked by fire from the 
American tank guns and mortars. The 
armored infantry were now disposed in 
the center with the medium tank com- 
panies, which had circled through St. 
Vith, at either flank. The draw extend- 
ing from the south to the west edge of 
town served as a boundary between the 
two CCB's. Because this piece of the 
front was regarded by both commanders 
as potentially dangerous, a tank com- 
pany and a platoon of tank destroyers 
were placed to back up the troops at 
the junction point. As part of the re- 
organization on the 1 gth, CCB, 7th Ar- 
mored, took over the 17th Tank Bat- 
talion, which had been holding the road 
southeast of Recht. This fleshed out a 
more or less connected but thin line 
running as a semicircle from south of 
Recht to a point about a thousand yards 
east of St. Vith, then curving back to 
the southwest where the 424th Infantry 
and CCB, gth Armored, met near Gruf- 
flange. 

During the 19th the two CCB's had 
been operating with very limited artil- 
lery support, although the 275th Ar- 
mored Field Artillery Battalion and the 
16th Armored Field Artillery Battalion 
had done yeoman service for their re- 
spective combat commands. The arrival 
of an additional field artillery battalion 
belonging to the 7 th Armored and two 
155-mm. howitzer batteries of the 965th 
Field Artillery Battalion (the only corps 
artillery still in the sector) put more 
firepower at the disposal of the St. Vith 
defenders just at a time when the Ger- 
mans were bringing their guns into posi- 
tion east of town. 

Supply routes to the 7th Armored 
Division trains were still open, although 
menaced by the roving enemy and ob- 



structed by west-moving friendly traffic. 
Having set up installations west of La 
Roche, the trains' commander (Col. 
Andrew J. Adams) used his own peo- 
ple and all the stragglers he could find 
to man roadblocks around the train area. 
About 1 700 two German tanks and a rifle 
platoon suddenly struck at one of these 
positions south of La Roche manned by 
Company C, 129th Ordnance Main- 
tenance Battalion. The ordnance com- 
pany beat ofE the Germans, but the ap- 
pearance this far west of enemy troops 
(probably from the ii6th Panzer Divi- 
sion) indicated that not only the 7th 
Armored Division trains but the entire 
division stood in danger of being cut 
off from the American force gathering 
around Bastogne. 

At the forward command post of the 
7th Armored in Vielsalm, the Division 
G-4 (Lt. Col. Reginald H. Hodgson) 
sent a message back to Colonel Adams, 
depicting the view of the situation tak- 
en by the St. Vith commanders and their 
staffs as the 19th came to a close: 

All division units holding firm. Units to 
south have apparently been by-passed by 
some Boche. Army dump at Gouvy was 
abandoned by Army but D/40th Tank Bat- 
talion took the town over. ... 82 Parachut- 
ists (82d Airborne Division) now coming 
up so we can probably get some ammo. . . . 
I have no contact with Corps . . . but Corps 
has ordered us to hold and situation well in 
hand. . . . Hope to see you soon: have sent 
you copy of all messages sent you. Hope you 
don't think I'm crazy. CG was well pleased 
with everything you have done. Congrats. 
Don't move 'til you hear from me. 

The defense of the St. Vith-Vielsalm 
area had taken form by the night of 19 
December. The troops within the per- 
imeter occupied an "island" with a Ger- 
man tide rushing past on the north and 



292 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



south and rising against its eastern face. 
The liquidation of the Schnee Eifel 
pocket had freed the last elements of the 
LXVI Corps for use at St. Vith; General 
Lucht now could concentrate on the re- 
duction of that town. 

During the day the commanders of 
Army Group B and the Fijth Panzer 
Army joined General Lucht at the com- 
mand post of the i8th Volks Grenadier 
Division near Wallerode Mill. The 
LXVI Corps commander left this con- 
ference with orders to encircle St. Vith, 
putting his main weight in enveloping 
moves north and south of the town. Bad 
road conditions, the blown bridge at 
Steinebriick, and continued attempts by 
Sixth Panzer Army columns to usurp the 
corps main supply road at Schonberg 
combined to delay Lucht's concentra- 
tion. Lucht ordered a barrier erected at 
Schonberg to sift out the interlopers 
(Lucht and his chief of staff personally 
helped make arrests) , but this was of 
little assistance. Corps and division artil- 
lery was brought forward piece by piece 
whenever a break in a traffic jam oc- 
curred, but the appearance of these 
horse-drawn guns in the motorized col- 
umns only succeeded in further disrupt- 
ing the march order. Like the Americans 
on 17 December, jammed on the St. 
Vith-Vielsalm road, the Germans lacked 
adequate military police to handle the 
situation. 

Even so, by the evening of 19 De- 
cember the two infantry divisions of the 
LXVI Corps were in position to launch 
piecemeal attacks at or around St. Vith. 
The i8th Volks Grenadier Division, on 
the right, had fed the foot troops of its 
2p5</i Regiment in between the Mobile 
Battalion, deployed around Wallerode, 
and the 294th, astride the St. Vith- 



Schonberg road. The 29 ^d Regiment, 
having aided in the capture of the 
Schnee Eifel regiments, filed into Schon- 
berg during the night. The division ar- 
tillery might be in firing position by the 
morning of the 20th. The 62d Volks 
Grenadier Division, to the south, finally 
brought its inner flank into echelon with 
the left of the i8th near Setz by pivoting 
the 190th Regiment west. The division 
left wing was formed by the 164th Regi- 
ment, which had occupied Lommers- 
weiler and Hemmeres following the 
withdrawal of CCB, gth Armored. The 
main body of the 18 ^d remained in re- 
serve at Winterspelt. During the night of 
19-20 December the Germans com- 
pleted a division bridge at Steinebriick 
near that destroyed by the American 
armored engineers, and division artil- 
lery and heavy vehicles began their 
move north and west. 

The real punch in the forthcoming at- 
tack would be delivered by the tanks 
belonging to the Fuehrer Begleit Bri- 
gade. This armored brigade, com- 
manded by Col. Otto Remer, had been 
hastily thrown together around a cadre 
composed of Hitler's former headquar- 
ters guard.® When the Fuehrer's com- 
mand post on the Eastern Front was 
closed by Hitler's return to Berlin, in 
November, Remer was given some addi- 
tional troops and shipped to the west. 
The final composition of the brigade was 
roughly equivalent to a reinforced Amer- 
ican combat command: three grenadier 
battalions, a battalion of Mark IV tanks 
from the Grossdeutschland Panzer Di- 
vision (a unit that caused Allied in- 
telligence no end of trouble since Gross- 

** Remer had come to Hitler's attention by his 
prompt actions designed to protect the Fuehrer 
during the July Putsch. 



THE FIRST ATTACKS AT ST. VITH 



293 



deutschland was known to be on the 
Eastern Front) , a battalion each of 
assault and field guns, and eight batteries 
of flak which had formed the antiair- 
craft guard for Hitler. Despite repeated 
requests by General Lucht, this brigade 
was not released to reinforce the LXVI 
Corps until late afternoon on 18 De- 
cember.* Colonel Remer reached the 
corps headquarters that same night, but 
the movement of his complete brigade 



• Manteuffel tells how he met Model on foot out- 
side St. Vith and persuaded the latter to commit 
Remer's brigade so as to speed up the Sixth SS 
Panzer Army and thus shake the Fifth loose. Freiden 
and Richardson, eds.. The Fatal Decisions, Part 6. 



from Daun via Priim to St. Vith would 
take considerable time. The orders he 
received from General Lucht were 
these: the Fuehrer Begleit Brigade 
would take part in the St. Vith attack 
but would not get too involved in the 
fight; once the town fell the brigade 
must drive posthaste for the Meuse 
River. After a personal reconnaissance 
east of St. Vith on 19 December Remer 
concluded that a frontal attack in this 
sector was out of the question. He 
decided, therefore, to flank the St. Vith 
defenses from the north as soon as his 
brigade, scheduled to arrive on 20 De- 
cember, was in hand. 



CHAPTER XIII 

VIII Corps Attempts To Delay the Enemy 



CCR, pth Armored Division, and 
the Road to Bastogne 

CCR, gth Armored Division, the ar- 
mored reserve of the VIII Corps, had 
been stationed at Trois Vierges on 13 
December in position to support the 
corps left and center. It consisted of the 
52d Armored Infantry Battalion, 2d 
Tank Battalion, 73d Armored Field Ar- 
tillery Battalion, and the conventional 
task force attachments. By the afternoon 
of 17 December German armored gains 
at the expense of the gSth Division, 
forming the center of the corps front, 
caused General Middleton to start gath- 
ering what antimechanized means he 
could find for commitment; this in- 
cluded the platoon of self-propelled tank 
destroyers from CCR which, as described 
earlier, he dispatched toward Clerf. 

When the second day of the battle 
came to a close, it had become apparent 
that the German columns advancing in 
the central sector were aiming at the 
road system leading to Bastogne. De- 
layed reports from the 28th Division in- 
dicated that an enemy breakthrough 
was imminent. The gth Armored Divi- 
sion commander already had sent CCR 
south to Oberwampach, behind the 28th 
Division center, when General Middle- 
ton ordered the combat command to set 
up two strong roadblocks on the main 
paved road to Bastogne "without delay." 



This order came at 2140, ten minutes 
after word that the enemy had crossed 
the Clerf reached the VIII Corps com- 
mand post. 

The two roadblock positions selected 
by the corps commander lay on High- 
way N12, which extended diagonally 
from St. Vith and the German border 
southwestward to Bastogne. Both posi- 
tions were on the line which General 
Middleton would order held "at all 
costs." Earlier, Middleton had directed 
the commander of the io6th Division to 
watch the northern entrance to this 
road, but the immediate threat on the 
night of the 17th was that the mobile 
spearheads of the German attack would 
gain access to this road much closer to 
Bastogne. One of the blocking positions 
was the intersection near the village of 
LuUange where the hard-surfaced road 
from Clerf entered that leading to Bas- 
togne. Clerf and its bridges were only 
five miles away from this junction and, 
on the evening of 17 December, already 
under German fire. The second position, 
three miles to the southwest on Highway 
N12 near the village of Allerborn, 
backed up the Lullange block. More 
important, the Allerborn road junction 
was the point at which a continuation 
of Highway N12 turned off to the 
southeast and down into, the Wiltz valley 
where advance patrols of the main Ger- 
man forces, albeit still on the far bank 



VIII CORPS ATTEMPTS TO DELAY THE ENEMY 



295 



of the Clerf, had appeared. The Aller- 
born block was only nine miles from 
Bastogne. 

A little after midnight CCR had 
manned these two important positions, 
under orders to report to the VIII Corps 
command post the moment they were 
brought under assault. Off to the east, 
however, the iioth Infantry continued 
the unequal contest with an enemy 
whose strength was growing by the hour. 
The force in the hands of the CCR com- 
mander, Col. Joseph H. Gilbreth, was 
small. Now split into two task forces and 
the supporting CCR headquarters 
group, the whole was spread thin indeed. 
Task Force Rose (Capt. L. K. Rose) , 
at the northern roadblock, consisted 
of a company of Sherman tanks, 
one armored infantry company, and a 
platoon of armored engineers. The 
southern roadblock was manned by Task 
Force Harper (Lt. Col. Ralph S. Har- 
per) , which consisted of the 2d Tank 
Battalion (— ) and two companies of the 
5 2d Armored Infantry Battalion. 

In midmorning the troops peering out 
from the ridge where the northern road- 
block had been set up saw figures in 
field gray entering a patch of woods 
to the east on the Clerf road, the first in- 
dication that the enemy had broken 
through the Clerf defenses. These 
Germans belonged to the Reconnais- 
sance Battalion of Lauchert's 2d Panzer 
Division, whose infantry elements at 
the moment were eradicating the last 
American defenders in Clerf. Lauchert's 
two tank battalions, unaffected by the 
small arms fire sweeping the Clerf 
streets, were close behind the armored 
cars and half-tracks of the advance guard. 

Two attempts by the Reconnaissance 
Battalion to feel out Task Force Rose 



were beaten back with the help of a 
battery from the 73d Armored Field 
Artillery Battalion whose howitzers 
were close enough to give direct fire at 
both American roadblocks. About 1100 
the first Mark IV's of the 2d Battalion, 
}d Panzer Regiment, appeared and un- 
der cover of an effective smoke screen 
advanced to within 800 yards of the 
Shermans belonging to Company A, 
2d Tank Battalion. The Germans dal- 
lied, probably waiting for the Panzer 
Battalion, which finally arrived in the 
early afternoon, then deployed on the 
left of the Mark IV's. Taken under 
direct fire by the enemy tank guns, the 
American infantry withdrew in the 
direction of the southern roadblock 
and Rose's tanks now were surrounded 
on three sides. 

Colonel Gilbreth, whose combat com- 
mand was directly attached to VIII Corps 
and who was charged with the defense 
of the entry to the Bastogne highway, 
could not commit his tiny reserve with- 
out the approval of the corps command- 
er. A telephone message from Gilbreth 
to the VIII Corps command post, at 
1405, shows the dilemma in all tactical 
decisions made during these hours when 
a few troops, tanks, and tank destroyers 
represented the only forces available to 
back up the splintering American line. 

TF Rose ... is as good as surrounded. 
. . . have counted 16 German tanks there. 
. . . TF is being hit from 3 sides. Recom- 
ment that they fight their way out. They 
could use 2 platoons of A/52d Armd Inf 
Bn [the last rifle reserve in CCR]— every- 
thing else is committed. . . . Did not com- 
mit any of the TDs, will wait until the 
over-all plan is known. Plan to push TF 
Rose toward the other road block. If the 
decision is to stay, some units will be sent 
there to help them out. 



296 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



The corps commander refused to let 
Rose move; and even if adequate rein- 
forcement for Task Force Rose had been 
at hand the hour was too late. A flanking 
move had driven back the American 
howitzers, German assault guns satu- 
rated the crest position with white phos- 
phorus, and when the Shermans pulled 
back to the rear slope the panzers 
simply ringed Rose's company. CCR 
headquarters got the word at 1430 that 
the northern roadblock and its defend- 
ers had been overrun, but despite the 
loss of seven Shermans Company A con- 
tinued to hold. It had been forced back 
from the road junction, however, and 
the bulk of the Panzer Regiment was 
moving out onto the Bastogne highway. 
The early winter night gave the Amer- 
icans a chance. Captain Rose broke out 
cross-country with five tanks and his 
assault gun platoon, rolling fast with- 
out lights through little villages to- 
ward Houffalize, near which the detach- 
ment was ambushed. A few vehicles and 
crews broke free and reached Bastogne. 

The southern roadblock came under 
German fire in the late afternoon, light 
enemy elements seeping past the be- 
leaguered block at the northern junc- 
tion. The Mark IV's and Panthers ac- 
tually did not reach Task Force Har- 
per until after dark. Sweeping the area 
with machine gun fire to clear out any 
infantry who might be protecting the 
American tanks, the panzers overran 
and destroyed two tank platoons of 
Company C, 2d Tank Battalion. Per- 
haps the weight of this night attack had 
caught the American tankers off guard: 
the enemy later reported that only three 
Shermans at the AUerborn block were 
able to maneuver into a fighting stance. 
The armored infantry, about 500 yards 



from the Shermans, had no better for- 
tune. The panzers set the American 
vehicles afire with tracer bullets, then 
picked out their targets silhouetted by 
the flames. During this action Colonel 
Harper was killed. What was left of 
Task Force Harper and stragglers from 
Task Force Rose headed west toward 
Longvilly, where CCR headquarters had 
been set up. 

Longvilly, five and a half miles from 
Bastogne, was the scene of considerable 
confusion. Stragglers were marching 
and riding through the village, and the 
location of the enemy was uncertain, al- 
though rumor placed him on all sides. 
About 2000 an officer appeared at Gil- 
breth's command post and, to the de- 
light of the CCR staff, reported that a 
task force from the 10th Armored Divi- 
sion (Team Cherry) was down the 
Bastogne road. The task force command- 
er, Lt. Col. Henry T. Cherry, he then 
announced, had orders not to advance 
east of Longvilly. This word abrupt- 
ly altered the atmosphere in the com- 
mand post. 

Two armored field artillery battal- 
ions (the 73d and 58th) still were fir- 
ing from positions close to Longvilly, 
pouring shells onto the AUerborn road 
junction from which Task Force Har- 
per had been driven. A handful of rifle- 
men from the 110th Infantry, including 
Company G which had been ordered to 
Clerf and the remnants of the 110th 
headquarters which had been driven 
out of AUerborn, were still in action. 
These troops, together with four tank 
destroyers from the 630th Tank De- 
stroyer Battalion ( — ) , had formed a 
skirmish line- to protect the firing bat- 
teries of the 58th south of the village. 

Late in the evening firing was heard 



VIII CORPS ATTEMPTS TO DELAY THE ENEMY 



297 



behind the CCR position. This came 
from Mageret, next on the Bastogne 
road, where German troops had infil- 
trated and cut off the fire direction cen- 
ter of the 73d Field Artillery Battalion. 
The firing batteries nevertheless con- 
tinued to shell the road east of Longvilly, 
tying in with the 58th Field Artillery 
Battalion. Both battalions were firing 
with shorter and shorter fuzes; by 2315 
the gunners were aiming at enemy in- 
fantry and vehicles only two hundred 
yards to the front. Somehow the batter- 
ies held on. A little before midnight 
Colonel Gilbreth ordered what was left 
of CCR and its attached troops to begin 
a withdrawal via Mageret. A few vehi- 
cles made a run for it but were am- 
bushed by the Germans now in posses- 
sion of Mageret. When a disorderly 
vehicle column jammed the exit from 
Longvilly, Gilbreth saw that some order 
must be restored and stopped all move- 
ment until morning light.^ 

Under orders, the 73d Armored Field 
Artillery Battalion displaced westward, 
starting about 0400, one battery cover- 
ing another until the three were west of 
Longvilly firing against enemy seen to 
the east, north, and south, but giving 
some cover for the CCR withdrawal. The 
58th Field Artillery Battalion and its 
scratch covering force were hit early in 
the morning by a mortar barrage, and 
very shortly two German half-tracks ap- 
peared through the half-light. These 
were blasted with shellfire but enemy in- 
fantry had wormed close in, under cover 
of the morning fog, and drove back the 

^Gilbreth was convinced that he must "freeze" 
the vehicles in place after he had talked to the 
commander of the 58th Field Artillery Battalion, 
who had witnessed such precipitate withdrawals 
during the North African campaign. Ltr, Col 
Joseph H. Gilbreth to author, 6 Sep 58. 



thin American line in front of the bat- 
teries. About 0800 the fog swirled away, 
disclosing a pair of enemy tanks almost 
on the howitzers. In a sudden exchange 
of fire the tanks were destroyed. 

About this time CCR started along the 
Bastogne road, although a rear guard 
action continued in Longvilly until 
noon. The 58th Field Artillery Battal- 
ion, with cannoneers and drivers the 
only rifle protection, joined the move, 
Battery B forming a rear guard and 
firing point-blank at pursuing German 
armor. The head of the main column 
formed by CCR was close to Mageret 
when, at a halt caused by a roadblock, 
hostile fire erupted on the flanks of the 
column. There was no turning back, nor 
could the vehicles be extricated from the 
jam along the road. The melee lasted 
for several hours. Company C of the 
482d Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion 
(Capt. Denny J. Lovio) used its mobile 
quadruple machine guns with effect, 
working "heroically," as CCR later ac- 
knowledged, to hold the Germans at bay. 
The two batteries of the 58th Armored 
Field Artillery Battalion that had been 
able to bring off their self-propelled 
howitzers went into action, but the fog 
had thickened and observed fire was 
well-nigh impossible. At long last the 
dismounted and disorganized column 
was brought into some order "by several 
unknown officers who . . . brought 
leadership a nd confidence to our troops." 
(Map VI) I 

In midatternoon CCR headquarters, 
the remnants of the 58th, and the strag- 
glers who had been accumulated in the 
Longvilly defense made their way 
around to the north of Mageret, thence 
to Foy, and finally to Bastogne, this move 
being made under cover of fire laid down 



298 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



by paratroopers from the loist who 
seemed to materialize out of nowhere. 
The losses sustained by CCR cannot be 
accurately determined, for a part of those 
listed in the final December report were 
incurred later in the defense of Bas- 
togne.^ The 58th Armored Field Ar- 
tillery Battalion had lost eight of its 
howitzers; the 73d Armored Field Artil- 
lery Battalion had lost four. That these 
battalions were self-propelled accounts 
for the fact that so many pieces, closely 
engaged as the batteries had been, were 
saved to fire another day. 

While the battle for the roadblocks 
and Longvilly was going on, a third task 
force from CCR (Lt. Col. Robert M. 
Booth) had been separately engaged. As 
a guard against tank attack from the 
north, the CCR commander sent Booth 
with the headquarters and headquarters 
company of the 5 2d Armored Infantry 
Battalion, plus a platoon from the 811th 
Tank Destroyer Battalion, and a platoon 
of light tanks to occupy the high ground 
north of the Allerborn-Longvilly section 
of the main highway. During the night of 
18-19 December Booth's position re- 
ceived some enemy fire but did not come 
under direct assault. Communications 
with CCR had broken down, however, 
and German tanks had been identified 
passing to the rear along the Bourcy 
road. 

Booth decided that the best chance of 
escaping encirclement lay in moving out 
to the northwest. At daylight on the 
19th the column started, picking up 
stragglers from the original roadblocks 
as it moved. The light tank platoon 

The total losses for December 1944 (which in- 
clude those sustained later in the defense of 
Bastogne) are reported in the AAR as being about 
800 killed and missing; the 2d Tank Battalion 
lost 45 medium tanks and 14 light tanks. 



dropped off early in the march to fight a 
rear guard action against the enemy who 
was closing in on the column and to pro- 
tect a number of half-tracks which had 
bogged down. Hard pressed and unable 
to disengage its vehicles, the rear guard 
finally escaped on foot. The main col- 
umn dodged and detoured in a series of 
small brushes with the Germans, who by 
this time seemed to be everywhere, until 
it reached Hardigny, three miles north- 
west of the starting point. German 
tanks and infantry were waiting here, 
and in the ensuing fight the column was 
smashed. About 225 officers and men es- 
caped into the nearby woods and after 
devious wanderings behind the German 
lines, some for as long as six days, finally 
reached Bastogne. 

The Advance of the XLVII 
Panzer Corps 

Luettwitz' XLVII Panzer Corps was 
coming within striking distance of Bas- 
togne by the evening of 18 December. 
The 2d Panzer Division, particularly, 
had picked up speed on the north wing 
after the surprising delay at Clerf. Luett- 
witz' mission remained as originally 
planned, that is, to cross the Meuse in 
the Namur sector, and the capture of 
Bastogne remained incidental— although 
none the less important— to this goal. 

Having erased the two roadblocks 
defended by CCR, General Lauchert 
turned his 2d Panzer Division to the 
northwest so as to swing past the Bas- 
togne road nexus and maintain the 
momentum of the westward drive. This 
maneuver was according to plan for 
there was no intention to use the 2d Pan- 
zer Division in a coup de main at 
Bastogne. Lauchert's column followed 



VIII CORPS ATTEMPTS TO DELAY THE ENEMY 



299 



the remnants of Task Force Harper 
from the Allerborn roadblock, then 
turned of! the Bastogne highway 
near the hamlet of Chifontaine and 
headed toward Bourcy and Noville. It 
was the 2d Panzer tanks which Task 
Force Booth had heard rolling in its rear 
on the night of 18-19 December and 
with which its rear guard collided on the 
19th. Although Task Force Booth and 
the Germans at first missed each other, 
the subsequent American attempt to 
circle around the northwest and thus 
attain Bastogne threw Booth's column 
straight into the German path. Lauch- 
ert's advance guard had hit Noville but 
found it strongly held and was forced to 
withdraw. As a result a strong detach- 
ment moved north to Hardigny, before 
a flanking attempt against the Noville 
garrison, and here encountered and cut 
to pieces Booth's column. 

The American troops defending in 
and around Longvilly were given a 
period of grace by Lauchert's decision to 
turn off on the Bourcy road. A second 
on-the-spot decision by another German 
commander added a few hours' breath- 
ing space. Bayerlein's Panzer Lehr 
Division was slowly climbing out of the 
Wiltz valley on the afternoon and 
evening of 18 December, en route to an 
assembly point at Niederwampach. The 
division had met little resistance but the 
roads were poor (the corps commander 
had caviled against the zone assigned the 
Panzer Lehr even during the planning 
period) , and march control was further 
burdened by the fact that the 26th Volks 
Grenadier Division was marching two of 
its rifle regiments toward the same as- 
sembly area. Theoretically the mobile 
columns of Panzer Lehr now should have 
been ahead of the infantry division. In 



fact the foot troops of the 26th were 
making nearly as much speed as the ar- 
mor. Horse-drawn artillery was mixed 
up with armored vehicles, the roads had 
been pounded to sloughs, and the Ger- 
man timetable for advance in this sector 
had gone out the window. 

In the early evening Bayerlein him- 
self led the advance guard of the Panzer 
Lehr (four companies of the ^o2d Pan- 
zer Grenadier Regiment and some fif- 
teen tanks) into Niederwampach. On the 
march the advance guard had heard the 
sounds of battle and seen gunfire flaming 
to the north, "an impressive sight," 
Bayerlein later recalled. This was the 
2d Panzer Division destroying the Aller- 
born roadblock defense. Bayerlein had 
two choices at this point. He could direct 
his division south to the hard-surfaced 
road linking Bras, Marvie, and Bastogne, 
or he could risk an unpaved and muddy 
side road via Benonchamps which would 
put the Panzer Lehr onto the main Bas- 
togne highway at Mageret, three miles 
east of Bastogne. Bayerlein decided on 
the side road because it was shorter and 
he believed that it probably was un- 
guarded. 

A kampfgruppe (a dozen tanks, a bat- 
talion of armored infantry, and one 
battery) was sent on to seize Mageret 
and arrived there an hour or so before 
midnight. The Americans occupied the 
village, but only with a small detach- 
ment of the 158th Engineer Combat 
Battalion, which had been ordered in to 
block the road, and a few of the service 
troops belonging to CCR. Fighting here 
continued sporadically for an hour or 
two as Americans and Germans stumbled 
upon each other in the dark. By 0100 on 
19 December the enemy had set up his 
own roadblock east of the village, for 



300 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



about that time ambulances evacuating 
wounded from Longvilly were checked 
by bullet fire.^ Thus far the Panzer Lehr 
advance guard had run into no serious 
trouble, but a friendly civilian reported 
that American tanks had gone through 
Mageret earlier, en route to Longvilly.* 
These tanks belonged to Team Cherry 
from CCB of the loth Armored Division. 

Team Cherry on the Longvilly Road 

On the evening of 1 8 December Team 
Cherry moved out of Bastogne on the 
road to Longvilly.^ Since he had the 
leading team in the CCB, loth Armored, 
column, Cherry had been assigned this 
mission by Colonel Roberts because of 
the immediate and obvious enemy threat 
to the east. Cherry had Company A and 
two light tank platoons of his own 3d 
Tank Battalion, Company C of the 20th 
Armored Infantry Battalion, the 2d Pla- 
toon of Company D, 90th Cavalry Recon- 
naissance, and a few medics and armored 
engineers. His headquarters and head- 



''Sgt. M. N. Shay was awarded the DSC for or- 
ganizing a group of soldiers to man machine guns 
and defend the village. When the defenders at- 
tempted to break out. Sergeant Shay stayed behind 
to cover the withdrawal and there was killed. 

*The German sources for the Longvilly fight 
are MSS # A-939 (Luettwitz) ; A-948 (Bayer- 
lein) ; and B-040 (Kokott) . 

^The useful records of the early and confused 
American reaction east of Bastogne are for the 
most part those compiled in the combat inter- 
views, shortly after the event, with personnel of 
the gth and 10th Armored Divisions. The journals 
of the 2d Tank Battalion, for example, were 
destroyed. Most units lost their records and then 
attempted to compile an AAR from memory. The 
interviews mentioned above have served as the 
basis for the description of the Longvilly action in 
three publications: The Armored School, Armor 
at Bastogne (1949); Marshall, Bastogne: The Story 
of the First Eight Days; and Nichols, Impact: The 
Battle Story of the Tenth Armored Division. 



quarters company was established in 
Neffe, just east of Bastogne; his 
trains, fortunately as it turned out, 
remained in Bastogne. The VIII 
Corps commander had designated Long- 
villy as one of the three positions which 
CCB was to hold at all costs. Cherry 
knew that CCR, gth Armored Division, 
was supposed to be around Longvilly, 
but beyond that he was totally in the 
dark. Even the maps at hand were nearly 
useless. The 1:100,000 sheets were accu- 
rate enough for a road march but told 
little of the terrain where the team would 
deploy. 

About 1900, after an uneventful move, 
1st Lt. Edward P. Hyduke, commanding 
the advance guard, reached the western 
edge of Longvilly. Seeing that the village 
was jammed with vehicles, he halted on 
the road. An hour later Cherry and his 
S-3 arrived at the headquarters of CCR 
where they learned that the situation was 
"vague." CCR had no plans except to 
carry out the "hold at all costs" order, 
and at the moment its southern road- 
block had not yet been overrun. Cherry 
went back to Bastogne to tell the CCB 
commander, 10th Armored Division, 
how things were going, leaving orders 
for the advance guard to scout and estab- 
lish a position just west of Longvilly 
while the main force (Capt. William F. 
Ryerson) closed up along the road with 
its head about a thousand yards west of 
the town. Hyduke's reconnaissance in 
the meantime had convinced him that 
the main gap in the defenses around 
Longvilly was in the south, and there he 
stationed the cavalry platoon, four Sher- 
man tanks, and seven light tanks. 

Just before midnight Lieutenant Hy- 
duke learned that CCR intended to fall 
back toward Bastogne (although, in fact. 



VIII CORPS ATTEMPTS TO DELAY THE ENEMY 



301 



the CCR commander later curtailed this 
move) and radioed Colonel Cherry to 
this effect. When Cherry got the message, 
about two hours later, he also learned 
that Mageret had been seized by the Ger- 
mans and that his headquarters at Neffe 
now was cut off from the team at Long- 
villy. Team Hyduke was in the process 
of shifting in the dark to cover Long- 
villy on the east, north, and south. Ryer- 
son had sent a half-track load of infantry 
to feel out the situation at Mageret, 
while independently CCR headquarters 
(gth Armored Division) had dispatched 
a self-propelled tank destroyer from its 
platoon of the 81 ith Tank Destroyer Bat- 
talion on the same mission. After appre- 
hensive and belated recognition the two 
crews agreed that the road through Mag- 
eret could be opened only by force. This 
word ultimately reached Cherry who 
sent back orders, received at 0830, that 
Ryerson should fight his way through 
Mageret while the erstwhile advance 
guard conducted a rear guard defense of 
Longvilly. 

During the night small German forces 
had tried, rather halfheartedly, to get in- 
to Longvilly or at least to pick off the 
weapons and vehicles crowded in the 
streets by the light of flares and search- 
lights directed on the town. As yet the 
German artillery and heavy mortars had 
not come forward in any number and 
Longvilly was shelled only in desultory 
fashion. The two right-wing regiments 
of the 26th Folks Grenadier Division 
were reoriented to the northwest in a 
move to reach the Noville-Bastogne road 
and place the division in position for a 
flanking attack aimed at penetrating the 
Bastogne perimeter from the north. On 
the extreme right the yyth Grenadier 
Regiment had bivouacked near Ober- 



wampach, its orders to advance at day- 
break through Longvilly and head for 
Foy. Its left neighbor, the ySth, was to 
make the main effort, swinging around 
to the north of Mageret and attacking 
to gain the high ground beyond Luzery. 

This plan failed to recognize the lim- 
itations of physical stamina and supply. 
With the dawn, the two regimental com- 
manders reported that their troops must 
be rested and resupplied before the ad- 
vance could resume. Shortly after 1000 
the yyth was ready to start its advance 
guard through Longvilly, believing that 
the town was in German hands. In light 
of the way in which troops of the 26th 
Folks Grenadier Division, Panzer Lehr, 
and 2d Panzer Division had poured into 
the area east of Bastogne during the 
night, crossing and recrossing boundary 
lines which now existed mostly on paper, 
it is not surprising that General Kokott 
and his commanders were a little vague 
as to whose troops held Longvilly. 

The yyth was close to the town, ad- 
vancing in route column when patrols 
suddenly signaled that the Americans 
were ahead. It was too late to bypass 
the town; so the German regimental 
commander hastily organized an attack 
behind a screen of machine guns which 
he rushed forward, at the same time 
borrowing some tanks from the 2d Pan- 
zer Division for a turning movement 
northeast of Longvilly. The division 
commander, however, ordered the attack 
held up until it could be organized and 
supported, made arrangements with the 
Panzer Lehr Division to join by a thrust 
from the southwest, and hurried guns 
and Werfers up to aid the infantry. Gen- 
eral Luettwitz, the corps commander, 
also took a hand in the game, without 
reference to Kokott, by ordering the ySth 



302 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



Grenadier Regiment to turn back toward 
the east in support of the yyth. When 
Kokott heard what had been done with 
his left regiment the ySth already was on 
the road, and it took until early after- 
noon to get the regiment turned around 
and moving west. An hour or so after 
noon the reinforced yyth was ready to 
jump off from the attack positions south, 
east, and northeast of Longvilly. 

By this time the bulk of CCR (gth 
Armored Division) and the mass of 
stragglers who had attached themselves 
to CCR were jammed in an immobile 
crowd along the road to Mageret, but a 
few riflemen were still holed up in the 
houses at Longvilly and the third platoon 
of Company C, 8iith Tank Destroyer 
Battalion, was manfully working its guns 
to cover the rear of the CCR column. 
The main action, however, devolved on 
the tanks and armored infantry which 
Hyduke had shifted during the night to 
form a close perimeter at Longvilly. 

The first indication of the nearing 
assault was a storm of Werfer and artil- 
lery shells. Then came the German tanks 
borrowed from the 2d Panzer Division, 
ramming forward from the north and 
east. In the confused action which fol- 
lowed the American tankers conducted 
themselves so well that Lauchert later 
reported a "counterattack" from Long- 
villy against the 2d Panzer flank. But the 
Shermans and the American light tanks 
were not only outnumbered but out- 
gunned by the Panthers and the 88's of 
a flak battalion. The foregone conclusion 
was reached a little before 1400 when the 
last of the light tanks, all that remained, 
were destroyed by their crews who found 
it impossible to maneuver into the clear. 
The armored infantry were forced to 
abandon their half-tracks. The same 



thing happened to the three tank de- 
stroyers. At least eight panzers had been 
destroyed in the melee, but Longvilly 
was taken. 

Lieutenant Hyduke's team, acting un- 
der orders to rejoin Captain Ryerson's 
main party, threaded a way west on foot 
and in small groups through the broken 
and burning column now in the last 
throes of dissolution, in the woods along 
the road, under a rain of shells and bul- 
lets. Ryerson's team, which Colonel 
Cherry had instructed early in the morn- 
ing to withdraw to the west, had been 
hard put to reverse itself and negotiate 
the cluttered road leading to Mageret. 
The leading American tank had reached 
a road cut some three hundred yards east 
of Mageret when a hidden tank or anti- 
tank gun suddenly opened fire, put a 
round into the Sherman, and set it 
aflame. The road into Mageret was 
closed and all possibility of a dash 
through the village ended. 

Protected somewhat by the banks 
rising on either side of the road the 
Americans spent the day trying to inch 
forward to the north and south of the 
village. Some of the gunners and infantry 
from the CCR (gth Armored Division) 
column attempted to take a hand in the 
fight and help push forward a bit, but 
constant and accurate shelling (probably 
from Panzer Lehr tanks which had been 
diverted northward from Benonchamps 
to aid the 26th Volks Grenadier Divi- 
sion) checked every move. At dark a 
small detachment from Ryerson's team 
and CCR reached the houses on the edge 
of Mageret. The village was held in some 
strength by detachments of the 26th 
Reconnaissance Battalion and Panzer 
Lehr. Ryerson had to report: "Having 
tough time. [The Germans] are shooting 



VIII CORPS ATTEMPTS TO DELAY THE ENEMY 



303 



flares and knocking out our vehicles with 
direct fire." But the Americans held onto 
their little chunk of the village through 
the night. 

While the bulk o£ Team Cherry was 
engaged at Longvilly and Mageret, the 
team commander and his headquarters 
troops were having a fight o£ their own 
at Neffe, a mile and a quarter southwest 
of Mageret. Here, cut off from his main 
force, Colonel Cherry had waited 
through the small hours of 19 December 
with the comforting assurance that 
troops of the 101st Airborne Division 
were moving through Bastogne and 
would debouch to the east sometime that 
day. At first light a detachment of tanks 
and infantry from the Panzer Lehr hit 
the Reconnaissance Platoon, 3d Tank 
Battalion, outposting the Neffe cross- 
roads. The platoon stopped one tank 
with a bazooka round, but then broke 
under heavy fire and headed down the 
Bastogne road. One of the two American 
headquarters tanks in support of the 
roadblock got away, as did a handful of 
troopers, and fell back to Cherry's com- 
mand post, a stone chateau three hun- 
dred yards to the south. 

The enemy took his time about follow- 
ing up, but just before noon moved in to 
clear the chateau. For four hours the 3d 
Tank Battalion command post group 
held on behind the heavy walls, working 
the automatic weapons lifted from its 
vehicles and checking every rush in a 
blast of bullets. Finally a few hardy Ger- 
mans made it, close enough at least to 
pitch incendiary grenades through the 
window. Fire, leaping through the 
rooms, closed this episode. Reinforce- 
ments, a platoon of the 501st Parachute 
Infantry, arrived just in time to take part 
in the withdrawal. But their appearance 



and the covering fire of other troops be- 
hind them jarred the Germans enough to 
allow Cherry and his men to break free. 
Before pulling out for Mont, the next 
village west. Colonel Cherry radioed the 
CCB commander this message: "We are 
pulling out. We're not driven out but 
burned out." 

Through the afternoon and evening of 
19 December Captain Ryerson and the 
little force clutching at the edge of Mag- 
eret waited for reinforcements to appear 
over the ridges to the south, for CCB 
had radioed that help (from the 10 1st 
Airborne Division) was on the way. 
Finally, after midnight, new word came 
from CCB. Ryerson was to withdraw 
northwest to Bizory at dawn and join the 
501st Parachute Infantry there. A little 
after daybreak Team Ryerson took its re- 
maining vehicles, its wounded, and the 
stragglers who had paused to take part 
in the fight and pulled away from Mag- 
eret. Forty minutes across country and it 
entered the paratrooper lines. The total 
cost to Team Cherry of the engagements 
on 19 December had been 175 officers 
and men, one-quarter of the command. 
Materiel losses had included seventeen 
armored half-tracks and an equal num- 
ber of tanks. Team Cherry records fif- 
teen German tanks destroyed in this day 
of catch-as-catch-can fighting, a likely 
figure since the 2d Panzer Division 
counted eight of its own tanks knocked 
out in one spot north of Longvilly. 

The story here set down has been one 
of mischance and confusion. But regard 
the manner in which CCR, 9th Armored 
Division, and Team Cherry altered the 
course of the German drive on Bastogne. 
Through the night of 18-19 December 
General Luettwitz hourly expected word 
that the advance guard of the XLVII 



304 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



Panzer Corps had reached Bastogne and 
the road there from north to Houffalize. 
This good news failed to arrive. While 
it was true that the resistance in the sec- 
tor held by the American i loth Infantry 
had finally crumbled, the cost to the Ger- 
mans had been dear in men, materiel, 
and tactical disorganization, but most of 
all in time. Fatigue too was beginning to 
tell. Yet Luettwitz had some reason to 
expect, as he did, that the road to the 
west at last was clear and that the lost 
momentum would shortly bp restored. 
Instead, as the record shows, the XLVII 
Panzer Corps continued to encounter 
irritating delays, delays compounded by 
American resistance, fatigue among the 
attacking troops, disintegrating roads, a 
general loss of control on the part of the 
German commanders, and, most telling 
of all, a momentary thickening of the 
"fog of war." On the right wing of the 
corps the fight waged at the Lullange 
road junction by Task Force Rose 
cheated the 2d Panzer Division of vital 
daylight hours. More time was lost in 
reducing the Allerborn roadblock, and 
Lauchert's advance guard found itself on 
the Bourcy-Noville road in the middle of 
the night. It is not surprising that the 
German advance was cautious and fur- 
ther attack to the northwest delayed. 
The whole affair added up to several 
extra hours that allowed the American 
defenders at the Noville outpost of Bas- 
togne until midmorning on the 19th to 
get set. 

The story of events at Longvilly and 
on the Longvilly-Mageret road merits 
particular attention by the student of 
tactics. Here was a confused and hetero- 
geneous force whose main concern on the 
night of 18-1 9 December and the follow- 
ing day was to find a way out of the Ger- 



man trap whose jaws were in plain view. 
Further resistance by either CCR or 
Team Cherry was intended strictly as a 
rear guard action. Yet the mere physical 
presence of these troops in the Longvilly 
area caused a confusion in German plans 
and a diversion of the German main 
effort on 19 December out of all pro- 
portion to the tactical strength or im- 
portance of the American units involved. 
The "discovery," on the morning of 19 
December, that American troops were in 
and around Longvilly cost the 26th Folks 
Grenadier Division at least four hours 
of precious daylight, first in setting up 
an attack for the yyth Grenadier Reg- 
iment and then in straightening out the 
78th. As a result when night came the 
right wing of the 26th Folks Grenadier 
Division was only a little over two miles 
beyond Longvilly, and the left, which 
had crossed to the north side of the Bas- 
togne road in the late afternoon, reached 
Bizory too late for a full-scale daylight 
assault. 

Although the main advance guard of 
the Panzer Lehr Division continued to 
the west on 19 December, where it ran 
afoul of Cherry's headquarters group at 
Neffe, a considerable part of the Panzer 
Lehr armored strength was diverted 
north from Benonchamps to use its tank 
gun fire against the Americans seen along 
the road east of Mageret and later to 
attack that village. Troops of both the 
poist and c)02d were thrown in to mop 
up the woods where the CCR column 
attempted to make a stand and they did 
not complete this job until midafter- 
noon. So, although the Panzer Lehr 
elements had helped free the Longvilly- 
Mageret road for the belated advance 
by the 26th Folks Grenadier Division 
to the northwest, the Panzer Lehr ad- 



VIII CORPS ATTEMPTS TO DELAY THE ENEMY 



305 



vance west of Bastogne was not the full- 
bodied affair necessary at this critical 
moment. The sudden blow at Bastogne 
which the commander of the XLVII Pan- 
zer Corps had hoped to deliver failed to 
come off on 19 December. Some Amer- 
ican outposts had been driven in, but 
with such loss of time and uneconomical 
use of means that the remaining outposts 
in front of Bastogne now were manned 
and ready. 

The loist Airborne Division 
Moves Into Bastogne 

After the long, bitter battle in Hol- 
land the Sad and 101st Airborne Divi- 
sions lay in camp near Reims, resting, 
refitting, and preparing for the next air- 
borne operation. General Ridgway's 
XVIII Airborne Corps, to which these 
divisions belonged, constituted the strate- 
gic reserve for the Allied forces in west- 
ern Europe. Although the Supreme 
Allied Commander had in the past 
attempted to create a SHAEF Reserve of 
a size commensurate with the expedition- 
ary forces under his command, he had 
been continually thwarted by the de- 
mands of a battle front extending from 
the North Sea to Switzerland. On 16 
December, therefore, the SHAEF Re- 
serve consisted solely of the two airborne 
divisions in France. 

Less than thirty-six hours after the 
start of the German counteroffensive, 
General Hodges, seeing the VIII Corps 
center give way under massive blows and 
having thrown his own First Army 
reserves into the fray plus whatever 
Simpson's Ninth could spare, turned to 
Bradley with a request for the SHAEF 
Reserve. Eisenhower listened to Bradley 
and acceded, albeit reluctantly; the two 



airborne divisions would be sent imme- 
diately to the VIII Corps area. Orders 
for the move reached the chief of staff of 
the XVIII Airborne Corps during the 
early evening of 17 December and the 
latter promptly relayed the alert to the 
Sad and 101st. There seems to have been 
some delay in reaching the corps com- 
mander in England, where he was ob- 
serving the training of a new division 
(the 17th Airborne) , but a couple of 
hours after midnight he too had his 
orders and began hurried preparations 
for the flight to France. 

The two divisions had little organic 
transportation— after all they were 
equipped to fly or parachute into battle- 
but in a matter of hours the Oise Section 
of the Communications Zone gathered 
enough lo-ton open trucks and trailers 
plus the work horse 2i/4-tonners to 
mount all the airborne infantry. Because 
the Sad had been given a little more rest 
than the 10 1st and would take less time 
to draw its battle gear and get on the 
road, it was selected to lead the motor 
march into Belgium. Ridgway would be 
delayed for some hours; so General 
Gavin, commanding the Sad, assumed 
the role of acting corps commander, 
setting out at once for the First Army 
headquarters where he arrived in mid- 
morning on the iSth. Since Maj. Gen. 
Maxwell D. Taylor was on leave in the 
United States, Brig. Gen. Anthony C. 
McAuliffe, artillery commander of the 
10 1st, prepared to lead this division into 
battle. 

To alert and dispatch the two veteran 
airborne divisions was a methodical busi- 
ness, although both moved to the front 
minus some equipment and with less 
than the prescribed load of ammunition. 
This initial deployment in Belgium pre- 



306 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



sents a less ordered picture, blurred by 
the fact that headquarters journals fail 
to square with one another and the 
memories of the commanders involved 
are at variance, particularly as regards 
the critical decision (or decisions) which 
brought the loist to Bastogne and its 
encounter with history." 

General Middleton, the VIII Corps 
commander, had his headquarters in 
Bastogne when the storm broke in the 
east. The city quite literally commanded 
the highway system lacing the southern 
section of the Belgian Ardennes. Middle- 
ton, having done all he could on the i6th 
and 17th to assemble his meager reserve 
of tanks and engineers in last-ditch posi- 
tions on the roads entering Bastogne 
from the east, read the pattern of the 
enemy advance in these terms on the 
17th. The number of German divisions 
and the speed at which they were moving 
would require the acquisition of a much 
larger road net than the Germans had 
thus far used. If St. Vith held and the 
V Corps shoulder did not give way, the 
enemy would attempt to seize the excel- 
lent highway net at Bastogne. Middle- 
ton therefore planned to hold the orig- 
inal VIII Corps positions as long as 
possible (in accordance with orders from 
General Hodges) , and at the same time 
to build strong defenses in front of St. 
Vith, Houffalize, Bastogne, and Luxem- 
bourg City. 

For the second stage of his plan he 
counted on prompt assistance from the 
First and Third Armies to create the 
defenses for St. Vith and Luxembourg, 




° Combat interviews; VIII Corps AAR and G-3 
Jnl; XVIII Airborne Corps AAR and G-3 Jnl; 
101st Airborne Div AAR and G-3 Jnl. 



General McAuliffe 

while the two airborne divisions— which 
Hodges had assured him would be forth- 
coming—took over Bastogne and Houff- 
alize. Middleton reasoned that a strong 
American concentration in the Bastogne- 
Houffalize sector would force the enemy 
to come to him, and that in any case he 
would be in strength on the German 
flank and rear. At midnight on the 1 7th 
the VIII Corps commander had a tele- 
phone call from Hodges' headquarters 
and heard the welcome word that he 
probably would get the Sad and 101st 
Airborne Divisions "immediately." 
Middleton's plan, it seemed, could be 
put in effect by the morning of the 19th. 

Eisenhower's order to commit the two 
airborne divisions did not specify exactly 
how they would be employed. Bradley 
and Hodges were agreed that they would 
be thrown in to block the German spear- 
head columns, but Lt. Gen. Walter Be- 
dell Smith, the SHAEF chief of staff, 



VIII CORPS ATTEMPTS TO DELAY THE ENEMY 



307 



seems to have selected Bastogne as the 
initial rendezvous point in Belgium 
without any knowledge of the First 
Army and VIII Corps plans. In any event 
Smith expected both of the airborne 
divisions to assemble around Bastogne. 

The subsequent order of events is 
rather uncertain. When Gavin reported 
at Spa on the morning of the i8th, he 
found the First Army staff gravely con- 
cerned by Peiper's armored thrust to- 
ward Werbomont and he was ordered 
to divert the incoming Sad, then en route 
to Bastogne, toward Werbomont. Initi- 
ally both Gavin and McAuliffe were un- 
der the impression that the loist was to 
go to Werbomont; actually McAuliffe 
started with his advance party to report 
to Gavin at that point but detoured with 
the intention of first getting Middleton's 
view of the situation. Middleton, on the 
other hand, expected that the 83d Air- 
borne would be put in at Houffalize to 
seal the gap opening on the north flank 
of the VIII Corps. McAuliffe reached 
Bastogne about 1600. 

The VIII Corps roadblocks east of 
Bastogne had meanwhile begun to give 
way. Middleton got Bradley's permission 
to divert the 10 1st to the defense of Bas- 
togne, whereupon Hodges turned the 
10 1st over to Middleton and ordered him 
to withdraw his corps headquarters from 
the threatened city. Middleton, however, 
remained with a few of his staff to brief 
Ridgway, who reached Bastogne in the 
early evening, and to help McAuliffe 
make his initial dispositons, the latter 
selecting an assembly area around 
Mande-St. Etienne, some four miles west 
of Bastogne. The VIII Corps commander 
telephoned Bradley that he had ordered 
the 10 1st to defend Bastogne, that there 
was no longer a corps reserve, and that 



the 10 1st might be forced to fight it out 
alone. 

Turning the motor columns of the 
10 1st was catch-as-catch-can. At the vil- 
lage of Herbomont two main roads ex- 
tend southeast to Bastogne and northeast 
of Houffalize (en route to Werbomont) . 
When the leader of the 10 1st column. 
Col. Thomas L. Sherburne, Jr., reached 
Herbomont about 3000 he found two 
military police posts some two hundred 
yards apart, one busily engaged in direct- 
ing all airborne traffic to the northeast, 
the other directing it to the southeast. 
This confusion was soon straightened 
out; the last trucks of the Sad roared 
away in the direction of Werbomont and 
Sherburne turned the head of the 101st 
column toward Bastogne. The story now 
becomes that of the 10 1st Airborne Divi- 
sion and of those units which would join 
it in the fight to bar the way west through 
Bastogne. 

The 501st Parachute Infantry Regi- 
ment (Lt. Col. Julian J. Ewell) headed 
the loist Division columns rolling into 
Belgium, followed by the 506th Para- 
chute Infantry (Col. Robert F. Sink) , 
the 503d Parachute Infantry (Lt. Col. 
Steve A. Chappuis) , and the 337th Gli- 
der Infantry Regiment (Col. Joseph H. 
Harper) to which was attached the 1st 
Battalion of the 401st Glider Infantry. 
(The 1st Battalion from the 401st is 
carried as the "3d Battalion" in the 
journals of the 337th and this designa- 
tion will be used throughout the narra- 
tive.) 

The division was smaller than a con- 
ventional infantry division (it numbered 
805 officers and 11,035 ™en) , but the 
organization into four regiments was 
better adapted to an all-round or four- 
sided defense than the triangular forma- 



308 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 




Paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Moving Up to Bastogne 



tion common to the regular division. 
The loist had three battalions of light 
field pieces, the modified pack howitzer 
with a maximum effective range of about 
8,000 yards. In place of the medium ar- 
tillery battalions normally organic or 
attached to the infantry division, the air- 
borne carried one battalion of 105-mm. 
howitzers. Also the airborne division had 
no armor attached, whereas in practice 
at least one tank battalion accompanied 
every regular division. The odd bits and 
pieces of armored, artillery, and tank 
destroyer units which were en route to 
Bastogne or would be absorbed on the 
ground by the loist would ultimately 



coalesce to provide a "balanced" combat 
force in the defense of Bastogne. 

Three of these ancillary units retained 
their tactical identity throughout the 
fight at Bastogne. The 705th Tank De- 
stroyer Battalion (Lt. Col. Clifford Tem- 
pleton) was in Germany with the Ninth 
Army when it received orders on the 
evening of the 18th to go south to Bas- 
togne. By the time the column reached 
the Ourthe River, German tanks were 
so close at hand that Templeton had to 
detour to the west. To protect his trains 
he dropped off two platoons to hold the 
Ortheuville bridge, one of those acci- 
dents of war which have fateful conse- 



VIII CORPS ATTEMPTS TO DELAY THE ENEMY 



309 



quences. On the night of the 19th the 
battalion reached Bastogne. The 705th 
was equipped with the new self-pro- 
pelled long-barreled 76-mm. gun which 
would permit a duel on equal terms with 
most of the German tank guns. 

The 755th Armored Field Artillery 
Battalion (Lt. Col. William F. Hartman) 
was sent from Germany on the eve- 
ning of the 18th with equally vague 
orders to proceed to Bastogne. The bat- 
talion reached its destination the follow- 
ing morning to find Bastogne jammed 
with vehicles. Middleton ordered Colo- 
nel Hartman to keep his bulky prime 
movers and 1 55-mm. howitzers out of the 
city until, in the evening, some traffic 
order had been restored. 

The 969th Field Artillery Battalion 
(Lt. Col. Hubert D. Barnes) , also 
equipped with medium howitzers, 
joined the Bastogne defense more or less 
by chance. Originally assigned to sup- 
port the 28th Division artillery, the bat- 
talion had been ordered to displace west 
as the enemy broke into the open. Sent 
hither and yon by liaison officers who 
apparently knew no more of the situa- 
tion than did the cannoneers, the battal- 
ion was moving out of the Bastogne 
sector when orders came to emplace and 
fire by map on German troops along the 
road entering Noville from the north. 
Thus the 969th joined the Bastogne bat- 
tle. Ordered by McAuliffe into the 
slowly forming perimeter, it took firing 



positions at Villeroux near the 755th 
and the 420th Armored Field Artillery 
Battalions. These three battalions to- 
gether would form a groupment firing 
from the west around the entire sweep 
of the Bastogne perimeter.'^ 

The 101st move from Camp Mour- 
melon to Bastogne was made in rain and 
snow flurries; for the later serials most of 
the 107-mile trip was in darkness. All 
parts of the column were forced to buck 
the mass of vehicles streaming back to 
the west. But the move was made in good 
time, the 501st in the van taking only 
eight hours before it detrucked at mid- 
night. By 0900 on 19 December McAu- 
liffe had all four regiments in hand. 

There could be no prolonged pause 
for an integrated division deployment, 
for all through the night messages of 
apprehension, defeat, and disaster— 
none too precise— came into Bastogne. 
Middleton counted on CCB of the 10th 
Armored Division (Col. William 
Roberts) to heal the breach— for a time 
at least— opened on the main road east 
of Bastogne. He expected McAuliffe to 
support this force, but as yet the enemy 
dispositions and intentions were too un- 
certain to permit any wholesale commit- 
ment of the 101st. 



' The 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion AAR, 
755th Armored Field Artillery Battalion Unit His- 
tory, and 969th Field Artillery Battalion AAR are 
must reading for anyone attempting to reconstruct 
the Bastogne defense. 



CHAPTER XIV 



The VIII Corps Barrier Lines 



On the morning of 16 December Gen- 
eral Middleton's VIII Corps had a for- 
mal corps reserve consisting of one 
armored combat command and four 
engineer combat battalions. In dire cir- 
cumstances Middleton might count on 
three additional engineer combat battal- 
ions which, under First Army command, 
were engaged as the 1128th Engineer 
Group in direct support of the normal 
engineer operations on foot in the VIII 
Corps area. In exceptionally adverse 
circumstances, that is under conditions 
then so remote as to be hardly worth a 
thought, the VIII Corps would have a 
last combat residue— poorly armed and 
ill-trained for combat— made up of rear 
echelon headquarters, supply, and tech- 
nical service troops, plus the increment 
of stragglers who might, in the course of 
battle, stray back from the front lines. 
General Middleton would be called up- 
on to use all of these "reserves." Their 
total effect in the fight to delay the Ger- 
man forces hammering through the VIII 
Corps center would be extremely im- 
portant but at the same time generally 
incalculable, nor would many of these 
troops enter the pages of history.^ 

^ The author has made an exhaustive (and ex- 
hausting) effort to read ali the documents, jour- 
nals, and reports belonging to each of the units 
mentioned— no matter how cursorily— in this chap- 
ter. Of course a great number of records were 
destroyed; this is particularly true of the artillery 
battalions. The journals of most of the engineer 
units are extant, but these vary greatly in value. 



A handful of ordnance mechanics 
manning a Sherman tank fresh from the 
repair shop are seen at a bridge. By their 
mere presence they check an enemy col- 
umn long enough for the bridge to be 
demolished. The tank and its crew dis- 
appear. They have affected the course of 
the Ardennes battle, even though min- 
utely, but history does not record from 
whence they came or whither they 
went. A signal officer checking his wire 
along a byroad encounters a German 
column; he wheels his jeep and races 
back to alert a section of tank destroyers 
standing at a crossroad. Both he and the 
gunners are and remain anonymous. Yet 
the tank destroyers with a few shots rob 
the enemy of precious minutes, even 
hours. A platoon of engineers appears in 
one terse sentence of a German com- 
mander's report. They have fought 
bravely, says the foe, and forced him to 
waste a couple of hours in deployment 
and maneuver. In this brief emergence 
from the fog of war the engineer platoon 

Surprisingly, many of the ordnance and antiair- 
craft units provided records which helped con- 
siderably in unwinding the involved tactical 
situation in their particular area. Any reader 
wishing to delve further into the story should 
begin with the following records: the VIII Corps 
G-3 Journal and Artillery AAR; First U.S. Army, 
G-3 Journal; the 51st Engineer Combat Battalion 
S-3 Operations Journal (a model of what such a 
record should be) ; the very complete 158th En- 
gineer Combat Battalion S~3 Journal; and the 
brief but graphic AAR of the 58th Armored Field 
Artillery Battalion (whose records were destroyed) . 



THE VIII CORPS BARRIER LINES 



311 



makes its bid for recognition in history. 
That is all. A small group of stragglers 
suddenly become tired of what seems to 
be eternally retreating. Miles back they 
ceased to be part of an organized combat 
formation, and recorded history, at that 
point, lost them. The sound of firing is 
heard for fifteen minutes, an hour, com- 
ing from a patch of woods, a tiny village, 
the opposite side of a hill. The enemy 
has been delayed; the enemy resumes 
the march westward. Weeks later a 
graves registration team uncovers mute 
evidence of a last-ditch stand at woods, 
village, or hill. 

The story of the units that were re- 
tained under tactical control and em- 
ployed directly by General Middleton 
in the attempt to form some defense in 
depth in the VIII Corps center has been 
partially recorded and therefore can be 
narrated. The effect that these units had 
in retarding the German advances, a 
course of action evolving extemporane- 
ously, must be considered along with 
the role played by the un-co-ordinated 
front-line formations in the haphazard 
sequence of their delaying actions from 
east to west. For convenience sake the 
VIII Corps action is recounted here in 
independent detail. 

With the very limited forces at his dis- 
posal prior to 16 December the VIII 
Corps commander found it physically 
impossible to erect any of the standard 
defenses taught in the higher army 
schools or prescribed in the field service 
regulations. The best he could do to de- 
fend the extended front was to deploy 
his troops as a screen, retaining local 
reserves for local counterattack at poten- 
tially dangerous points. In effect, there- 
fore, the main part of Middleton's re- 
serve consisted of the battalions and 



companies assembled in or close to the 
villages which formed the strongpoints 
of the screen. Under the circumstances 
there could be no thought of an elastic 
defense with strong formations eche- 
loned in any depth behind the forward 
positions. In the event of a general attack 
in great strength delivered against all 
parts of the corps front simultaneously, 
Middleton had little choice but to carry 
out the general directive to "defend in 
place." With four engineer battalions 
and one small armored combat command 
as the only corps reserve behind an elon- 
gated and brittle linear defense Middle- 
ton's commitment of this last reserve 
would turn on the attempt to plug a few 
of the gaps in the forward line, slow the 
enemy columns on a few main roads, and 
strengthen by human means two or three 
of the natural physical barriers deep in 
the corps rear area. 

Middleton's First Moves 

During the daylight hours of 16 De- 
cember the direction of the German 
main effort and the weight of the forces 
involved was only vaguely perceived by 
the VIII Corps and higher commands. 
In the front lines the troops actually 
grappling with the enemy initially re- 
ported piecemeal and seemingly local- 
ized attacks. As the day progressed and 
the attackers appeared in greater num- 
bers the changing situation duly was re- 
ported through the chain of command. 
By this time, however, communications 
had been so disrupted that the time lag 
as represented on the situation maps in 
corps and army headquarters was a 
matter of several hours. As a result CCR, 
gth Armored Division, and the four en- 
gineer combat battalions received alert 



312 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



orders and carried out assembly, but 
only the i68th Engineer Combat Battal- 
ion was committed and it had a string 
attached that restricted its free employ- 
ment by the io6th Infantry Division. Of 
the three army engineer battalions in the 
VIII Corps zone under the 1128th En- 
gineer Group, one, the 299th Engineer 
Combat Battalion, already was in the 
battle area. During the day its sawmills 
at Diekirch received a part in a First 
Army security plan, prepared a fortnight 
earlier. About one o'clock on the morn- 
ing of the 16th the 299th was put on 
alert status with other units in the army 
rear area to meet expected landings of 
German paratroops. Through the first 
day of the counteroffensive, therefore, 
the 1128th had most of its men reinforc- 
ing the guards at rear area headquarters 
and installations or manning observation 
points. 

During the night of 16 December 
communications deteriorated still fur- 
ther, particularly from regimental com- 
mand posts forward. The outline of the 
German attack began to emerge, and the 
pattern tentatively pointed to Liege as 
the enemy objective and made the size of 
the German effort more or less apparent. 
But the growing hiatus in time between 
the initial contact with enemy troops at 
a given point and the ultimate "fix" in 
grease pencil on the acetate overlays in 
the higher American headquarters made 
any true and timely picture of the extent 
of the German penetrations impossible. 
Enough information filtered into the 
VIII Corps command post at Bastogne, 
nevertheless, to enable Middleton to 
formulate his countermoves. The defen- 
sive plan he adopted consisted of two 
phases: first, to defend in place along the 
corps front as long as possible, thus 



carrying out the existing First Army 
directive; second, to deny the enemy full 
and free use of the Ardennes road net 
by building the strongest possible de- 
fense, with the limited force at hand, in 
front of the key communications centers, 
St. Vith, Houffalize, Bastogne, and Lux- 
embourg City. Although General Mid- 
dleton counted on reinforcements from 
outside his own command to garrison 
these four key points, it would fall to the 
VIII Corps to deny the enemy access 
thereto during the hours or days which 
would pass before reinforcements could 
take over. 

St. Vith and Bastogne appeared to be 
in the greatest immediate danger as 
cracks commenced in the linear defense 
on the 17th. Friendly armor was hurry- 
ing down from the north to bolster the 
106th Division and St. Vith; so, having 
turned one of his engineer battalions 
over to General Jones, the corps com- 
mander directed his attention to the ap- 
proaches to Bastogne, a natural thing in 
view of the dangerous condition of the 
VIII Corps center. Thus a pattern was 
forming in which the meager resources 
at Middleton's disposal would be com- 
mitted to delaying actions in the south- 
western part of the corps area while a 
vacuum formed south of St. Vith and to 
the rear of that sector. (See Map IV.) 

By the afternoon German advances at 
the expense of the 28th Division center 
forced Middleton to deploy the bulk of 
his reserve along the road net east of 
Bastogne. The presence of enemy recon- 
naissance at the Clerf River indicated 
that the main crossings would be made 
near Clerf and Wilwerwiltz. From the 
Clerf bridgehead a main, hard-surfaced 
highway led into Bastogne. The Wil- 
werwiltz bridgehead gave entry to the 



THE VIII CORPS BARRIER LINES 



313 



Wiltz valley and a complex o£ secondary 
roads wending toward Bastogne. CCR, 
gth Armored (which earlier had sent 
some tank destroyers to Clerf) , drew the 
assignment o£ blocking the Cler£-Bas- 
togne highway. One engineer battalion, 
the 44th, was ordered to reinforce the 
headquarters force of the 707th Tank 
Battalion for the defense of Wilwerwiltz, 
but events were moving too fast and the 
battalion was diverted to the 38th Divi- 
sion command post at Wiltz. There re- 
mained the problem of barring the way 
to Luxembourg City, east of which the 
4th Infantry Division was having a hard 
time. Already in the area, the 1 59th En- 
gineer Combat Battalion was attached to 
Barton's division in the late afternoon 
and headed for Consdorf. 

Of what might be considered the for- 
mal reserve of the VIII Corps, General 
Middleton had left, by 1600 of 17 De- 
cember, only the 35th Engineer Combat 
Battalion; he retained in addition a 
partial voice in the disposition of the 
1128th Engineer Group. The corps en- 
gineer officer, meanwhile, had proposed 
I plan for defending a line from Foy to 
Neffe which would screen the eastern 
entries to Bastogne. To form this screen 
the 35th and the 158th Engineer Combat 
Battalion, the latter taken from the 
1128th Group, assembled their com- 
panies, vehicles, and equipment. Both 
battalions had been dispersed in num- 
erous working parties; their trucks were 
hauling road-building stores, timber, 
and the like. Weapons long in disuse had 
to be collected and checked; land mines 
and explosives had to be gathered. Fur- 
thermore the 35th had the responsibility 
of guarding the VIII Corps headquarters 
and could not be released immediately. 

At the close of day other engineer 



units were on the move. Ponton and 
light equipment companies pulled onto 
the roads leading west with orders to 
take their bridges, air compressors, 
graders, and other paraphernalia out 
of enemy reach. Some of these units, like 
the 626th Engineer Light Equipment 
Company, would find themselves di- 
rectly in the path of the German ad- 
vance. At Diekirch the 299th Engineer 
Combat Battalion, under orders to rejoin 
its group in the west, shut down the saw- 
mills and entrucked under artillery fire. 
As yet no large numbers of foot strag- 
glers had come from the front lines, but 
the roads to the rear were crowded with 
supply vehicles, medium and heavy ar- 
tillery, service and headquarters trucks, 
jeeps, and command cars. Around the 
headquarters and installations farther to 
the west, clerks, mechanics, truck driv- 
ers, and the like stripped the canvas from 
truck-mounted machine guns, filled the 
ammunition racks on deadlined tanks, 
listened to hurried explanations of ba- 
zooka mechanisms, or passed in inspec- 
tion before sergeants who for the first 
time in weeks were seriously concerned 
with the appearance of each carbine and 
pistol. 

At daylight on 18 December the 158th 
Engineer Combat Battalion commenced 
digging on its designated position north- 
east of Bastogne between Foy and Neffe. 
In addition barriers manned in platoon 
strength were set up at Neffe, Mageret, 
and Longvilly on the Clerf highway. By 
dint of borrowing right and left 950 anti- 
tank mines could be used to strengthen 
the 158th position. At Bizory, northwest 
of Mageret, a part of Company C, 9th 
Armored Engineer Battalion, had been 
loaned by CCR and during the morn- 
ing dug in on the high ground facing 



314 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



toward the Bastogne road. 

Help was on the way to the VIII 
Corps, two airborne divisions and one 
armored. Of these reinforcements the 
loist Airborne Division and the loth 
Armored Division were expected to as- 
semble in the neighborhood of Bastogne. 
The problem then, during the i8th, was 
to (jxtend the slim screen already in 
position east of Bastogne so as to provide 
cover north and south of the city against 
any enemy interruption of the assembly 
process. On the south side the i io2d En- 
gineer Group gathered ordnance, quar- 
termaster, signal, and engineer units, 
placing them east of the highway run- 



ning to Arlon. At the moment, however, 
this sector gave no cause for immediate 
concern, for the southern flank of the 
corps still was holding. 

North of Bastogne a German threat 
was beginning to take shape. During the 
morning word reached the VIII Corps 
command post that the 740th Field Ar- 
tillery Battalion had been overrun by 
the ist SS Panzer Division at Poteau, 
west of St. Vith. Also, the left wing of 
the 28th Infantry Division had been 
forced back across the Our River and it 
appeared that a penetration was in prog- 
ress south of St. Vith. To head off any 
roaming German reconnaissance units 




La Roche and the Ourthe River 



THE VIII CORPS BARRIER LINES 



315 



north of Bastogne, a collection of anti- 
aircraft, tank destroyer, ordnance, and 
engineer units moved to intersections 
and bridges along the Bastogne-La 
Roche road. In the latter bridgehead 
town the 7 th Armored Division trains 
took over responsibility for blocking the 
roads which there united to cross the 
Ourthe River. East of this line lay Houff- 
alize, one of the four key road centers 
designated by Middleton for defense, 
but the Sad Airborne Division was en 
route to the battle and the VIII Corps 
commander expected that it would be 
deployed in the HoufEalize sector. The 
Germans were moving too fast. At 1400 
on the eighteenth a radio message 
reached Bastogne that the enemy had 
overrun the rear command post of an 
engineer company at Steinbach, just east 
of HoufEalize. 

There remained the very real threat 
of a coup de main against Bastogne from 
the east. In the afternoon bad news from 
this sector came thick and fast: at 1405 
a telephone call from the commander 
of CCR, gth Armored Division, reported 
that his most advanced roadblock force 
(Task Force Rose) was "as good as sur- 
rounded"; at 1430 the Germans were 
reported advancing on the second road- 
block; at 1525 came confirmation that 
Task Force Rose had been overrun. On 
the Clerf highway, then, the enemy was 
less than nine miles from Bastogne. 
Troops of the 28th Division continued 
to hold the town of Wiltz, but they could 
not bar the valley corridor to the Ger- 
mans. An officer patrol, in armored cars 
taken out of ordnance workshops, made 
an attempt to reconnoiter a proposed 
barrier line between CCR and Wiltz. 
Toward evening their report reached 
Bastogne: the Germans were west of the 



proposed line. The project was dropped. 

As ordered by General Hodges, 
most of the VIII Corps headquarters 
moved during the day to Neuf chateau, 
about eighteen miles southwest of 
Bastogne, but General Middleton and 
a small staff remained in the city to 
brief the incoming airborne and ar- 
mored commander and to maintain 
what little control still could be exer- 
cised over the course of battle. The 35th 
Engineer Combat Battalion, headquar- 
ters guard, was more urgently needed 
east of Bastogne; at 1800 Middleton or- 
dered the battalion to move in on the 
right of the 158th. With two battalions 
in line there was a screen, albeit very 
thin, extending from the Houffalize-Bas- 
togne road to the Arlon-Bastogne road. 
Then, since the center of gravity for the 
corps was rapidly shifting to the south- 
west, Middleton took his last two engi- 
neer battalions, the 1278th and 299th, to 
establish a screen facing generally north 
between Libramont and Martelange. Be- 
hind this screen, southwest of Bastogne, 
he hoped to assemble the stragglers and 
broken units of his corps. 

The situation as seen by Middleton 
and his staff on the night of the 18 th 
was this. CCB of the 10th Armored had 
arrived from the Third Army and taken 
positions between Bastogne and Wiltz. 
Some part of CCR, gth Armored, re- 
mained intact at Longvilly astride the 
Clerf road. The 101st Airborne Division 
was detrucking in its concentration area 
west of Bastogne. The Germans had 
achieved a clear penetration in the corps 
center and for all practical purposes 
the American forces in the St. Vith sector 
were separated from those under Middle- 
ton's immediate control. The deep and 
dangerous penetration made by the 



316 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



armored columns of the ist SS Panzer 
Division in the V Corps sector north and 
west of St. Vith had forced the First 
Army and 12 th Army Group command- 
ers to choose between an attempt to re- 
store the breach between Bastogne and 
St. Vith and one to stop the ist SS Panzer 
Division. 

The decision, made during the after- 
noon, was to assemble the Sad airborne 
Division at Werbomont, instead of 
Houffalize as Middleton had intended. 
Houffalize would have to go and with- 
out a fight. Rumors in the early evening 
already placed it in German hands. Since 
there was no force at hand to close the 
Houffalize gap the most that could be 
done was to vulcanize the edges of the 
tear by holding on at St. Vith and 
Bastogne. Perhaps, too, the enemy rush- 
ing through the gap might be caused 
some difficulty and delay by the creation 
of a barrier line along the Ourthe River 
and its tributaries. Plans for such a 
barrier line already were in execution 
in heterogeneous units hurrying to out- 
post bridges, villages, and road inter- 
sections between La Roche and Bas- 
togne. 

The night of 18 December was rife 
with rumor. By the quarter hour new 
reports came in from excited truck 
drivers, jeep patrols, or lonely clerks on 
unfamiliar outpost duty, placing the Ger- 
mans in some village or on some road 
actually well to the west of the real 
locations of the most advanced enemy 
spearheads. The rear areas of the corps 
—if one could continue to speak of any 
"rear" area— was crawling with vehicles. 
Supply points, truckheads, and medical 
installations were moving to the west- 
some for the third time in as many days. 
New collecting points for the dead were 



opening. And closer to the vague and 
fragmentary front line, roads, trails, and 
paths carried stragglers singly or in large 
herds, toiling painfully on foot or cling- 
ing tenaciously to some vehicle, back 
to Bastogne or beyond to the west. 

The Gap North of Bastogne 

The action east of Bastogne during 
the night of 1 8 December, the absorption 
of the engineer screen into the larger 
defending forces, and the final fate of 
CCR, gth Armored, has already been 
described. Here the focus is on the at- 
tempt to impede the probing advance 
guards and reconnaissance parties of the 
Fifth Panzer Army pushing into the gap 
north of Bastogne. 

Construction of a really tough bar- 
rier line along the Ourthe River hardly 
could be expected. The stream itself, 
even when swollen by the winter snows, 
was narrow. At some points the ap- 
proaches to the crossing sites were diffi- 
cult to negotiate and lent themselves to 
blocks and barriers, but there were many 
bridges and numerous fords which an 
enemy could use to bypass a barred cross- 
ing site. At best only a very few compa- 
nies of engineers could be found for the 
business of preparing bridge demolition 
charges, erecting barriers, laying anti- 
tank mines, and blasting craters in the 
roads. Some engineer tools and equip- 
ment had been lost to the enemy, but 
there was probably as much available 
as the small number of engineers could 
properly use. It was one thing to 
strengthen the physical barriers in the 
path of the oncoming enemy; it was 
quite another to defend at these barriers 
with sufficient rifle strength and antitank 
weapons. The men and weapons re- 



THE VIII CORPS BARRIER LINES 



317 



quired for a continuous defensive line 
along the Ourthe simply were not avail- 
able. On the other hand the German col- 
umns would not hit the Ourthe line in a 
co-ordinated and general attack; further- 
more their initial appearance could be 
predicted along the well-defined and 
major routes westward. 

On the morning of 19 December re- 
connaissance troops of two German 
armored divisions, the 2d Panzer Divi- 
sion and the 116th Panzer Division, fun- 
neled through a narrow corridor, only 
two miles in width, between Noville and 
Houffalize. The southern wall of this 
corridor was formed by the American 
troops who had pushed the rapidly form- 
ing Bastogne perimeter as far out as 
Noville. In the ^north where the town 
of Houffalize had been abandoned the 
corridor wall was formed by nature, for 
Houffalize was a bridgehead on the east- 
west channel of the Ourthe River. The 
two corps whose armored divisions were 
leading the Fifth Panzer Army pack in 
the race for the Meuse were strung 
out for miles behind the foremost re- 
connaissance forces. The main forces of 
the two armored divisions, although rela- 
tively close to the reconnaissance teams, 
were still a few hours behind. 

On the German left the 2d Panzer Di- 
vision, leading the XLVII Panzer Corps, 
collided with the Noville defenses early 
on the 19th, Partly by chance and partly 
by design, for General Lauchert needed 
more road room in which to pass his 
division around Bastogne, the 2d Panzer 
Division column became involved in a 
fight which extended from Noville east 
to Longvilly and lasted all through the 
day and following night. Caught up in 
this fight the advance elements of the 
division did not push beyond the 



Houffalize-Bastogne road until darkness 
had fallen. On the German right the 
reconnaissance battalion of the 116th 
Panzer Division moved along the south 
side of the Ourthe swinging wide to 
avoid Houffalize (this before noon) , 
then turning to the northwest with the 
intention of crossing the Ourthe and 
seizing the La Roche bridges from the 
rear. This advance, though unopposed, 
was slow. Shortly after noon a few light 
reconnaissance vehicles reached Ber- 
togne, from which a secondary road led 
across the Ourthe and on to La Roche. 

General Middleton had spotted 
Bertogne as one of the chief approaches 
to the Ourthe and La Roche. Having 
been promised the 705th Tank Destroyer 
Battalion, en route south from the Ninth 
Army, he ordered the battalion to erect 
roadblocks at both Bertogne and La 
Roche. The 705th, coming by way of 
Liege, was a few hours distant when the 
German scouts entered Bertogne. Across 
the river the commander of the 7 th Ar- 
mored Division trains had taken inde- 
pendent action to protect his trucks and 
supplies gathered in the neighborhood 
of La Roche by installing outpost detach- 
ments and roadblocks to the south and 
east. Someone (who is not clear) had 
blown the Ourthe bridge northwest of 
Bertogne. To prevent the reconstruction 
of this bridge Colonel Adams sent Com- 
pany C, 129th Ordnance Maintenance 
Battalion, and a couple of antiaircraft 
half-tracks mounting 37-mm. guns to 
form a block on the near bank about a 
half mile from the village of Ortho. 

It was midafternoon when the enemy 
reached the far bank. A self-propelled 
gun at the head of the small German col- 
umn got in the first blow, its shells knock- 
ing out the half-track crews. Capt. 



318 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



Robert E. Spriggs withdrew his com- 
pany to a ridge overlooking the river 
and radioed for reinforcements. The 
enemy would not risk a daylight cross- 
ing, nor could the German engineers 
repair the damaged span while under 
direct fire. In the early evening five 
more half-tracks from the 203d Antiair- 
craft Battalion and a pair of self-pro- 
pelled tank destroyers from the 705th 
Tank Destroyer Battalion came up. 

It must have been about this time that 
the ii6th Panzer Division command- 
er received the unwelcome news that 
he had no bridge on which to cross the 
western branch of the Ourthe. The 
forward combat teams of the division 
were west of the Houffalize-Bastogne 
road but not yet up to the river. They 
had defiled with difficulty on the limited 
road net north of the Bastogne outworks, 
and a part of the tank regiment had 
stopped by the way to aid the 2d Panzer 
Division at Noville. In the twilight re- 
connaissance troops who had pushed 
west along the Ourthe after the setback 
at the Bertogne crossing discovered a 
Bailey bridge, still standing, at Ortheu- 
ville. Whether the bridge could be cap- 
tured in usable condition was yet to be 
seen, but as soon as this find was radioed 
to the ii6th Panzer Division command- 
er he directed the advance guard of the 
division toward Ortheuville. 

The Ourthe River resembles a mis- 
shapen Y in which the down stroke runs 
east to west and the open arms extend 
toward the northwest and southwest. 
The bifurcation in this Y comes about 
five miles west of Houffalize. The west 
branch of the Ourthe, as Belgian hydrog- 
raphers name it, was the obstacle con- 
fronting the German armored spear- 
heads on the night of 19 December. All 



during that day engineers from the VIII 
Corps and First Army had toiled to 
make a barrier line of the two arms west 
of Houffalize, blowing bridges which 
were not on the main American supply 
lines, fixing charges for future destruc- 
tion of others, planting antitank mines 
at possible fording sites, erecting and 
manning roadblocks on roads and in the 
villages along the main approaches to 
the river. On the north branch, that is 
the line Durbuy-Hotton-La Roche, the 
51st Engineer Combat Battalion (Lt. 
Col. Harvey R. Eraser) was hard at 
work.^ Only three companies were on 
hand to prepare this twelve-mile stretch 
of the river barrier, for Company C had 
been hurried northeast to Trois Fonts 
where it would administer a severe set- 
back to Kampfgruppe Peiper of the ist 
SS Panzer Division. South of La Roche, 
whose important bridges were outposted 
by the 7th Armored trains, the gth 
Canadian Forestry Company had left 
sawmills and logging tracts to prepare 
demolitions and guard the crossing sites 
on a tributary of the Ourthe. The steps 
taken to bar the western branch of 
the Ourthe northwest of Bertogne and 
the initial reverse imposed on the enemy 
reconnaissance there have already been 
noted. Strung across the land neck be- 
tween La Roche and the bridgehead at 
Ortheuville were a few platoons of the 
1278th Engineer Combat Battalion. 

At Ortheuville one of the main VIII 
Corps supply roads (Bastogne-Marche- 
Namur) crossed the western branch of 

^The 51st held its main position for five days 
and was given a Presidential Citation. The Ca- 
nadian Forestry Company which worked with the 
51st pays high tribute to the battalion and its 
commander. See No. i Coy, Canadian Forestry 
Corps, Report of Operations, 16-21 December 
1944- 



THE VIII CORPS BARRIER LINES 



319 



the river by means of a heavy Bailey 
bridge. Shortly after noon on the 19th 
a platoon or less of the 299th Engineer 
Combat Battalion arrived in Ortheuville 
to prepare this important span for de- 
struction. Although the VIII Corps staff 
had given priority to defense at this 
bridge, there was little enough that 
could be put in the effort. Three com- 
panies of the 299th and a small portion 
of the 1278th Engineer Combat Battal- 
ions comprised all the troops available 
for a barrier line now being constructed 
from Martelange northwest along High- 
way N46 to the Ourthe River, thence 
on both banks of the river to Ortheu- 
ville— a distance of about twenty-seven 
miles. 

In the meantime the 158th Engineer 
Combat Battalion (Lt. Col. Sam Tabets) 
which, as part of the screen east of 
Bastogne, had been in a fire fight 
throughout the morning,^ was relieved 
by the 501st Parachute Infantry, the bat- 
talion leaving the sector about 1430. The 
companies of the 1 58th were returning 
to their separate and original bivouacs 
when corps orders suddenly arrived dis- 
patching the battalion to the Ourthe 
line. It would take some while to reas- 
semble the battalion but Company C was 
reached and diverted to Ortheuville. 
Here it closed about 1900. To his sur- 
prise and relief the engineer company 
commander found that he would have 
some antitank support— desultory shell- 
fire already was falling on the village and 

''When the first German assault hit the 158th, 
Pvt. Bernard Michin took on an enemy tank with 
a bazooka at a range of ten yards, was badly 
burned by the explosion but destroyed the tank. 
Unable to see because of his wounds he located 
an enemy machine gun by sound, threw a hand 
grenade, and wiped out the crew. He was awarded 
the DSC. 



it was known that German armor was 
close at hand. The 705th Tank Destroyer 
Battalion, which Middleton had attached 
to the 101st Airborne Division, was on 
the move to Bastogne. Originally ordered 
to use the road through Bertogne, the 
battalion had been forced to detour 
when the battalion commander found 
the enemy there. The 705th, following 
the near bank of the Ourthe west to St. 
Hubert, dropped off eight tank destroy- 
ers to bar an enemy crossing while its 
trains passed through Ortheuville. These 
guns, as it turned out, would not reach 
Bastogne for a number of days. 

So things stood as the evening ad- 
vanced: the engineers and tank destroy- 
er crews waiting for some enemy move 
to take the bridge; the German self- 
propelled guns and tanks lobbing in a 
shell now and again to keep the Ameri- 
cans away from the bridge and perhaps 
with hopes of cutting the wires on the 
demolition charges. Back to the east the 
advance guard of the 11 6th Panzer Divi- 
sion was marching toward Ortheuville. 

At this point General Krueger, the 
LVIII Panzer Corps commander, made 
his fateful decision. The bridge north- 
west of Bertogne was gone, the bridge 
at Ortheuville probably would be blown 
in any attack, and furthermore it would 
be difficult to squeeze the entire corps 
through the small opening between the 
east-west channel of the Ourthe and 
Noville. Late in the evening he ordered 
the 116th Panzer Division advance 
guard, then at Salle three miles south- 
east of the Ortheuville bridge, to a halt. 
Then he sent orders to the division com- 
manders and corps troops which would 
countermarch the forces west of the 
Houftalize-Bastogne road and turn the 
entire L VIII Panzer Corps to the north, 



320 



THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE 



through the Houffalize bridgehead, and 
away from the western branch of the 
Ourthe. 

A flurry of enemy activity a little be- 
fore midnight on the roads northwest 
of Bastogne masked the withdrawal of 
the LVIII Panzer Corps. Armored cars 
and half-tracks raced up and down the 
roads shooting up small convoys, sparring 
with American outposts, and engender- 
ing a flock of rumors which placed 
German spearheads in a half dozen spots 
beyond the Ourthe. In truth the only 
serious efforts to cross the west branch 
in the late evening were those made by 
roving reconnaissance elements of the 
2d Panzer Division^ whose main combat 
strength remained tied down in the fight 
for Noville. An hour before midnight 
these scouts did appear in front of a 
bridge at Sprimont, which crossed a 
tributary of the Ourthe south of Ortheu- 
ville; for their pains the American en- 
gineers blew the bridge in their faces. 

A few engineers, ordnance troops, and 
antiaircraft and tank destroyer crews on 
19 December had contributed mightily 
to the German decision which turned an 
entire armored corps from the road west 
and plunged it into profitless adventures 
in a side alley. Of all the disappoint- 
ments suffered by the Fifth Panzer 
Army on this day, and there were many, 
perhaps the greatest stemmed from the 
reverses suffered in fact at the bridge 
beyond Bertogne and in anticipation at 
the Bailey span in Ortheuville. 

While Krueger's corps turned in its 
tracks during the night of 19 December, 
General Luettwitz issued commands to 
his XLVII Panzer Corps, whose forward 
column was bunching up around 
Bastogne. Reports from the troops press- 
ing onto the city from the north and 



east led Luettwitz to conclude that hard- 
hitting tactics in the coming day might 
break the will of the defenders, loosen 
their grip on the Bastogne road net, 
and give the armor of the 2d Panzer 
Division and Panzer Lehr a clear high- 
way west. Luettwitz put a time limit on 
the attack prepared for the 20th, in- 
structing his armored divisions to be 
ready to bypass Bastogne. His recon- 
naissance pushed around the city, mean- 
while, both north and south, and tangled 
with the defenders of the makeshift, 
attenuated barrier lines. 

At Ortheuville a lull developed short- 
ly after midnight as the light armor 
screening the 11 6th Panzer Division final- 
ly pulled away. The engineers patrolled 
across the river along the Bastogne road 
but found no one except American 
wounded whose trucks had been shot 
up by German raiders earlier in the 
night. Just before dawn, light tanks 
and armored infantry from the 2d Pan- 
zer Division arrived to take their turn 
at the bridge. After some time spent 
probing the bridge defenses by fire, the 
German infantry rushed forward behind 
a careening scout car. As much to their 
surprise as to that of the American 
engineers the bridge remained intact. 
For some reason, perhaps the enemy 
shelling a few hours earlier, the demo- 
lition charges on the span failed to ex- 
plode when the plunger went home. At 
the first shock the defenders had fallen 
back across the bridge to the houses by 
the river bank and started firing. They 
had only a few mi